Flux-rope twist in eruptive flares and CMEs: due to zipper and main-phase reconnection

Eric Ronald Priest, D.W. Longcope

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)


The nature of three-dimensional reconnection when a twisted flux tube erupts during an eruptive flare or coronal mass ejection is considered. The reconnection has two phases: first of all, 3D “zipper reconnection” propagates along the initial coronal arcade, parallel to the polarity inversion line (PIL); then subsequent quasi-2D “main phase reconnection” in the low corona around a flux rope during its eruption produces coronal loops and chromospheric ribbons that propagate away from the PIL in a direction normal to it.
One scenario starts with a sheared arcade: the zipper reconnection creates a twisted flux rope of roughly one turn (2π radians of twist), and then main phase reconnection builds up the bulk of the erupting flux rope with a relatively uniform twist of a few turns. A second scenario starts with a pre-existing flux rope under the arcade. Here the zipper phase can create a core with many turns that depend on the ratio of the magnetic fluxes in the newly formed flare ribbons and the new flux rope. Main phase reconnection then adds a layer of roughly uniform twist to the twisted central core. Both phases and scenarios are modeled in a simple way that assumes the initial magnetic flux is fragmented along the PIL. The model uses conservation of magnetic helicity and flux, together with equipartition of magnetic helicity, to deduce the twist of the erupting flux rope in terms the geometry of the initial configuration.
Interplanetary observations show some flux ropes have a fairly uniform twist, which could be produced when the zipper phase and any pre-existing flux rope possess small or moderate twist (up to one or two turns). Other interplanetary flux ropes have highly twisted cores (up to five turns), which could be produced
when there is a pre-existing flux rope and an active zipper phase that creates substantial extra twist.
Original languageEnglish
Article number25
Number of pages31
JournalSolar Physics
Early online date9 Jan 2017
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2017


  • Sun: flares
  • Sun: magnetic topology
  • Magnetic reconnection
  • Helicity


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