On the relationship between the coronal magnetic decay index and coronal mass ejection speed

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Numerical simulations suggest that kink and torus instabilities are two potential contributors to the initiation and prorogation of eruptive events. A magnetic parameter called the decay index (i.e., the coronal magnetic gradient of the overlying fields above the eruptive flux ropes) could play an important role in controlling the kinematics of eruptions. Previous studies have identified a threshold range of the decay index that distinguishes between eruptive and confined configurations. Here we advance the study by investigating if there is a clear correlation between the decay index and coronal mass ejection (CME) speed. Thirty-eight CMEs associated with filament eruptions and/or two-ribbon flares are selected using the Hα data from the Global Hα Network. The filaments and flare ribbons observed in Hα associated with the CMEs help to locate the magnetic polarity inversion line, along which the decay index is calculated based on the potential field extrapolation using Michelson Doppler Imager magnetograms as boundary conditions. The speeds of CMEs are obtained from the LASCO C2 CME catalog available online. We find that the mean decay index increases with CME speed for those CMEs with a speed below 1000 km s-1 and stays flat around 2.2 for the CMEs with higher speeds. In addition, we present a case study of a partial filament eruption, in which the decay indices show different values above the erupted/non-erupted part.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number52
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 10 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • Sun: activity
  • Sun: coronal mass ejections (CMEs)
  • Sun: filaments, prominences
  • Sun: magnetic topology


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