Letter | Published:

A universal model for solar eruptions

Nature volume 544, pages 452455 (27 April 2017) | Download Citation

Subjects

Abstract

Magnetically driven eruptions on the Sun, from stellar-scale coronal mass ejections1 to small-scale coronal X-ray and extreme-ultraviolet jets2,3,4, have frequently been observed to involve the ejection of the highly stressed magnetic flux of a filament5,6,7,8,9. Theoretically, these two phenomena have been thought to arise through very different mechanisms: coronal mass ejections from an ideal (non-dissipative) process, whereby the energy release does not require a change in the magnetic topology, as in the kink or torus instability10,11; and coronal jets from a resistive process2,12 involving magnetic reconnection. However, it was recently concluded from new observations that all coronal jets are driven by filament ejection, just like large mass ejections13. This suggests that the two phenomena have physically identical origin and hence that a single mechanism may be responsible, that is, either mass ejections arise from reconnection, or jets arise from an ideal instability. Here we report simulations of a coronal jet driven by filament ejection, whereby a region of highly sheared magnetic field near the solar surface becomes unstable and erupts. The results show that magnetic reconnection causes the energy release via ‘magnetic breakout’—a positive-feedback mechanism between filament ejection and reconnection. We conclude that if coronal mass ejections and jets are indeed of physically identical origin (although on different spatial scales) then magnetic reconnection (rather than an ideal process) must also underlie mass ejections, and that magnetic breakout is a universal model for solar eruptions.

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Acknowledgements

P.F.W. was supported by a Royal Astronomical Society Fellowship at Durham University and previously by a NASA Postdoctoral Program Fellowship at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. S.K.A. and C.R.D. were supported by NASA ‘Living With a Star’ and Heliophysics Supporting Research grants. The numerical simulations were supported by NASA High-End Computing allocations to C.R.D. on discover at NASA’s Center for Climate Simulation.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Department of Mathematical Sciences, Durham University, Durham DH1 3LE, UK

    • Peter F. Wyper
  2. Heliophysics Science Division, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, 8800 Greenbelt Road, Greenbelt, Maryland 20771, USA

    • Spiro K. Antiochos
    •  & C. Richard DeVore

Authors

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  2. Search for Spiro K. Antiochos in:

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Contributions

P.F.W. designed and performed the numerical simulations, created the graphical outputs, and drafted the manuscript. S.K.A. conceived the investigation, consulted on the simulations, and revised the manuscript. C.R.D. developed the numerical model, assisted in designing the experiments, acquired the computer resources required, and revised the manuscript.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Peter F. Wyper.

Reviewer Information Nature thanks K. Shibata and the other anonymous reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

Publisher's note: Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Extended data

Supplementary information

Videos

  1. 1.

    The simulated mini-filament jet evolution

    See Figure 1 and text for descriptions of the evolution and field lines/shading depicted.

  2. 2.

    3D visualisation of the jet

    See Figure 2 and text for descriptions of the evolution and field lines/iso-surfaces depicted.

  3. 3.

    Mini-filament jet example

    See Extended Data Figure 2 and text for description.

  4. 4.

    Evolution of the flux rope during the slow rise phase

    See Extended Data Figure 1 and Methods for descriptions of the shading the method for following the flux rope.

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/nature22050

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