What is the source of the magnetic helicity shed by CMEs? The long-term helicity budget of AR 7978

P. Démoulin, C. H. Mandrini, L. Van Driel-Gesztelyi, B. J. Thompson, S. Plunkett, Zs Kovári, G. Aulanier, A. Young

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An isolated active region (AR) was observed on the Sun during seven rotations, starting from its birth in July 1996 to its full dispersion in December 1996. We analyse the long-term budget of the AR relative magnetic helicity. Firstly, we calculate the helicity injected by differential rotation at the photospheric level using MDI/SoHO magnetograms. Secondly, we compute the coronal magnetic field and its helicity selecting the model which best fits the soft X-ray loops observed with SXT/Yohkoh. Finally, we identify all the coronal mass ejections (CMEs) that originated from the AR during its lifetime using LASCO and EIT/SoHO. Assuming a one to one correspondence between CMEs and magnetic clouds, we estimate the magnetic helicity which could be shed via CMEs. We find that differential rotation can neither provide the required magnetic helicity to the coronal field (at least a factor 2.5 to 4 larger), nor to the field ejected to the interplanetary space (a factor 4 to 20 larger), even in the case of this AR for which the total helicity injected by differential rotation is close to the maximum possible value. However, the total helicity ejected is equivalent to that of a twisted flux tube having the same magnetic flux as the studied AR and n number of turns in the interval [0.5, 2.0]. We suggest that the main source of helicity is the inherent twist of the magnetic flux tube forming the active region. This magnetic helicity is transferred to the corona either by the continuous emergence of the flux tube for several solar rotations (i.e. on a time scale much longer than the classical emergence phase), or by torsional Alfvén waves.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)650-665
Number of pages16
JournalAstronomy and Astrophysics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2002


  • Solar-terrestrial relations
  • Sun: corona
  • Sun: coronal mass ejections (CMEs)
  • Sun: magnetic fields

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science

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    Démoulin, P., Mandrini, C. H., Van Driel-Gesztelyi, L., Thompson, B. J., Plunkett, S., Kovári, Z., Aulanier, G., & Young, A. (2002). What is the source of the magnetic helicity shed by CMEs? The long-term helicity budget of AR 7978. Astronomy and Astrophysics, 382(2), 650-665. https://doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361:20011634