Magnetic Cloud

A magnetic cloud is a transient event observed in the solar wind. It was by Burlaga et al 1981 as a region of enhanced magnetic field strength, smooth rotation of the magnetic field vector and low proton density and temperature [1]. Magnetic clouds are a possible manifestation of a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME). The association between CMEs and magnetic clouds was made by Burlaga et al in 1982 when a magnetic cloud was observed by Helios-1 two days after being observed by SMM[2]. However, because observations near Earth are usually done by a single spacecraft, many CMEs are not seen as being associated with magnetic clouds. The typical structure observed for a fast CME by a satellite such as ACE is a fast-mode shock wave followed by a dense (and hot) sheath of plasma (the downstream region of the shock) and a magnetic cloud.

Other characteristics of magnetic clouds

Other signatures of magnetic clouds are now used in addition to the one described above: among other, bidirectional superthermal electrons, unusual charge state or abundance of iron, helium, carbon and/or oxygen. The typical time for a magnetic cloud to move past a satellite at the L1 point is 1 day corresponding to a radius of 0.15 AU with a typical speed of 450 km s-1 and magnetic field strength of 20 nT [3]

Other types of ejecta observed at Earth

Magnetic clouds represent about one third of ejecta observed by satellites at Earth. Other types of ejecta are multiple-magnetic cloud events (a single structure with multiple subclouds distinguishable) and complex ejecta, which can be the result of the interaction of multiple CMEs


1. ^ Burlaga, L. F., E. Sittler, F. Mariani, and R. Schwenn, "Magnetic loop behind an interplanetary shock: Voyager, Helios and IMP-8 observations" in "Journal of Geophysical Research", 86, 6673, 1981

2. ^ Burlaga, L. F. et al, "A magnetic cloud and a coronal mass ejection" in "Geophysical Research Letter"s, 9, 1317-1320, 1982

3. ^ Lepping, R. P. et al "Magnetic field structure of interplanetary magnetic clouds at 1 AU" in "Journal of Geophysical Research", 95, 11957-11965, 1990.

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