Sigmoid-To-Flux-Rope Transition Leading To A Loop-Like Coronal Mass Ejection

Sigmoids are one of the most important precursor structures for solar eruptions. In this Letter, we study a sigmoid eruption on 2010 August 1 with EUV data obtained by the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA) on board the Solar Dynamic Observatory (SDO). In AIA 94 Å (Fe XVIII; 6 MK), topological reconfiguration due to tether-cutting reconnection is unambiguously observed for the first time, i.e., two opposite J-shaped loops reconnect to form a continuous S-shaped loop, whose central portion is dipped and aligned along the magnetic polarity inversion line (PIL), and a compact loop crossing the PIL. A causal relationship between photospheric flows and coronal tether-cutting reconnections is evidenced by the detection of persistent converging flows toward the PIL using line-of-sight magnetograms obtained by the Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager on board SDO. The S-shaped loop remains in quasi-equilibrium in the lower corona for about 50 minutes, with the central dipped portion rising slowly at ~10 km s-1. The speed then increases to ~60 km s-1 about 10 minutes prior to the onset of a GOES-class C3.2 flare, as the S-shaped loop speeds up its transformation into an arch-shaped loop, which eventually leads to a loop-like coronal mass ejection. The AIA observations combined with Hα filtergrams as well as hard X-ray imaging and spectroscopy are consistent with most flare loops being formed by reconnection of the stretched legs of less-sheared J-shaped loops that envelopes the rising flux rope, in agreement with the standard tether-cutting scenario.