Implications of Non-cylindrical Flux Ropes for Magnetic Cloud Reconstruction Techniques and the Interpretation of Double Flux Rope Events
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Magnetic clouds (MCs) are a subset of interplanetary coronal mass ejections (ICMEs) which exhibit signatures consistent with a magnetic flux rope structure. Techniques for reconstructing flux rope orientation from single-point in situ observations typically assume the flux rope is locally cylindrical, e.g., minimum variance analysis (MVA) and force-free flux rope (FFFR) fitting. In this study, we outline a non-cylindrical magnetic flux rope model, in which the flux rope radius and axial curvature can both vary along the length of the axis. This model is not necessarily intended to represent the global structure of MCs, but it can be used to quantify the error in MC reconstruction resulting from the cylindrical approximation. When the local flux rope axis is approximately perpendicular to the heliocentric radial direction, which is also the effective spacecraft trajectory through a magnetic cloud, the error in using cylindrical reconstruction methods is relatively small (≈ 10∘). However, as the local axis orientation becomes increasingly aligned with the radial direction, the spacecraft trajectory may pass close to the axis at two separate locations. This results in a magnetic field time series which deviates significantly from encounters with a force-free flux rope, and consequently the error in the axis orientation derived from cylindrical reconstructions can be as much as 90∘. Such two-axis encounters can result in an apparent ‘double flux rope’ signature in the magnetic field time series, sometimes observed in spacecraft data. Analysing each axis encounter independently produces reasonably accurate axis orientations with MVA, but larger errors with FFFR fitting.
KeywordsMagnetic cloud Magnetic flux rope Coronal mass ejection Solar wind
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