A team of scientists from the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology, in collaboration with researchers from NorthWest Research Associates, the University of Graz and its Kanzelhöhe Observatory, have unveiled a novel method for the early estimation of Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) direction in 3D space. The groundbreaking technique, named DIRECD — “Dimming InfeRred Estimate of CME Direction” — will provide crucial data to mitigate potential adverse impacts on various industries and technological systems both in space and on Earth. The findings of the study, conducted by the international team will be published in the Astronomy & Astrophysics journal. Meanwhile, the research paper is already accessible on the Arxiv.org preprint repository.
Coronal mass ejections are giant magnetic plasma bubbles, which are ejected from the Sun into the surrounding space at speeds of several hundred to several thousand kilometers per second. If the bubble of charged particles is directed toward Earth, it may cause geomagnetic storms and polar auroras when hitting the Earth’s magnetosphere, which can lead to serious problems in the operation of space- and ground-based technological systems and create radiation hazards for astronauts.
Unfortunately, early detection of a coronal mass ejection is currently very challenging as, typically, it becomes visible only at a developed stage, when it appears in the field of view of special instruments, called coronagraphs, which create an artificial solar eclipse by occulting the solar disk by several of its radii. In addressing this challenge, to estimate the propagation direction of a coronal mass ejection in 3D space early on, the DIRECD method uses indirect traces of coronal mass ejections on the Sun — coronal dimmings, which are dark areas in extreme ultraviolet images. Dimmings are caused by the expansion and ejection of matter from the solar corona during a CME. The current research and the DIRECD method resulted from an earlier work, where the team showed the connections between the dimming and CME morphology, demonstrating the great potential of coronal dimmings for detecting and analyzing CMEs at an early stage in their evolution.