skip to main content

This content will become publicly available on December 1, 2022

Title: Solar Orbiter observations of an ion-scale flux rope confined to a bifurcated solar wind current sheet
Context. Flux ropes in the solar wind are a key element of heliospheric dynamics and particle acceleration. When associated with current sheets, the primary formation mechanism is magnetic reconnection and flux ropes in current sheets are commonly used as tracers of the reconnection process. Aims. Whilst flux ropes associated with reconnecting current sheets in the solar wind have been reported, their occurrence, size distribution, and lifetime are not well understood. Methods. Here we present and analyse new Solar Orbiter magnetic field data reporting novel observations of a flux rope confined to a bifurcated current sheet in the solar wind. Comparative data and large-scale context is provided by Wind. Results. The Solar Orbiter observations reveal that the flux rope, which does not span the current sheet, is of ion scale, and in a reconnection formation scenario, existed for a prolonged period of time as it was carried out in the reconnection exhaust. Wind is also found to have observed clear signatures of reconnection at what may be the same current sheet, thus demonstrating that reconnection signatures can be found separated by as much as ∼2000 Earth radii, or 0.08 au. Conclusions. The Solar Orbiter observations provide new insight into the hierarchy more » of scales on which flux ropes can form, and show that they exist down to the ion scale in the solar wind. The context provided by Wind extends the spatial scale over which reconnection signatures have been found at solar wind current sheets. The data suggest the local orientations of the current sheet at Solar Orbiter and Wind are rotated relative to each other, unlike reconnection observed at smaller separations; the implications of this are discussed with reference to patchy vs. continuous reconnection scenarios. « less
; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ;
Award ID(s):
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Astronomy & Astrophysics
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. During three of its first five orbits around the Sun, Parker Solar Probe (PSP) crossed the large-scale heliospheric current sheet (HCS) multiple times and provided unprecedented detailed plasma and field observations of the near-Sun HCS. We report the common detections by PSP of reconnection exhaust signatures in the HCS at heliocentric distances of 29.5–107 solar radii during encounters 1, 4, and 5. Both sunward and antisunward-directed reconnection exhausts were observed. In the sunward reconnection exhausts, PSP detected counterstreaming strahl electrons, indicating that HCS reconnection resulted in the formation of closed magnetic field lines with both ends connected to the Sun. In the antisunward exhausts, PSP observed dropouts of strahl electrons, consistent with the reconnected HCS field lines being disconnected from the Sun. The common detection of reconnection in the HCS suggests that reconnection is almost always active in the HCS near the Sun. Furthermore, the occurrence of multiple long-duration partial crossings of the HCS suggests that HCS reconnection could produce chains of large bulges with spatial dimensions of up to several solar radii. The finding of the prevalence of reconnection in the HCS is somewhat surprising since PSP has revealed that the HCS is much thicker than the kinetic scalesmore »required for reconnection onset. The observations are also in stark contrast with the apparent absence of reconnection in most of the small-scale and much more intense current sheets encountered near perihelia, many of which are associated with “switchbacks”. Thus, the PSP findings suggest that large-scale dynamics, either locally in the solar wind or within the coronal source of the HCS (at the tip of helmet streamers), plays a critical role in triggering reconnection onset.« less
  2. Context. Solar Orbiter, the new-generation mission dedicated to solar and heliospheric exploration, was successfully launched on February 10, 2020, 04:03 UTC from Cape Canaveral. During its first perihelion passage in June 2020, two successive interplanetary coronal mass ejections (ICMEs), propagating along the heliospheric current sheet (HCS), impacted the spacecraft. Aims. This paper addresses the investigation of the ICMEs encountered by Solar Orbiter on June 7−8, 2020, from both an observational and a modeling perspective. The aim is to provide a full description of those events, their mutual interaction, and their coupling with the ambient solar wind and the HCS. Methods. Data acquired by the MAG magnetometer, the Energetic Particle Detector suite, and the Radio and Plasma Waves instrument are used to provide information on the ICMEs’ magnetic topology configuration, their magnetic connectivity to the Sun, and insights into the heliospheric plasma environment where they travel, respectively. On the modeling side, the Heliospheric Upwind eXtrapolation model, the 3D COronal Rope Ejection technique, and the EUropean Heliospheric FORecasting Information Asset (EUHFORIA) tool are used to complement Solar Orbiter observations of the ambient solar wind and ICMEs, and to simulate the evolution and interaction of the ejecta in the inner heliosphere, respectively. Results.more »Both data analysis and numerical simulations indicate that the passage of two distinct, dynamically and magnetically interacting (via magnetic reconnection processes) ICMEs at Solar Orbiter is a possible scenario, supported by the numerous similarities between EUHFORIA time series at Solar Orbiter and Solar Orbiter data. Conclusions. The combination of in situ measurements and numerical simulations (together with remote sensing observations of the corona and inner heliosphere) will significantly lead to a deeper understanding of the physical processes occurring during the CME-CME interaction.« less
  3. Context. The first encounters of Parker Solar Probe (PSP) with the Sun revealed the presence of ubiquitous localised magnetic deflections in the inner heliosphere; these structures, often called switchbacks, are particularly striking in solar wind streams originating from coronal holes. Aims. We report the direct piece of evidence for magnetic reconnection occurring at the boundaries of three switchbacks crossed by PSP at a distance of 45 to 48 solar radii to the Sun during its first encounter. Methods. We analyse the magnetic field and plasma parameters from the FIELDS and Solar Wind Electrons Alphas and Protons instruments. Results. The three structures analysed all show typical signatures of magnetic reconnection. The ion velocity and magnetic field are first correlated and then anti-correlated at the inbound and outbound edges of the bifurcated current sheets with a central ion flow jet. Most of the reconnection events have a strong guide field and moderate magnetic shear, but one current sheet shows indications of quasi anti-parallel reconnection in conjunction with a magnetic field magnitude decrease by 90%. Conclusions. Given the wealth of intense current sheets observed by PSP, reconnection at switchback boundaries appears to be rare. However, as the switchback boundaries accomodate currents, one canmore »conjecture that the geometry of these boundaries offers favourable conditions for magnetic reconnection to occur. Such a mechanism would thus contribute in reconfiguring the magnetic field of the switchbacks, affecting the dynamics of the solar wind and eventually contributing to the blending of the structures with the regular wind as they propagate away from the Sun.« less
  4. Context. Aims. We systematically search for magnetic flux rope structures in the solar wind to within the closest distance to the Sun of ~0.13 AU, using data from the third and fourth orbits of the Parker Solar Probe. Methods. We extended our previous magnetic helicity-based technique of identifying magnetic flux rope structures. The method was improved upon to incorporate the azimuthal flow, which becomes larger as the spacecraft approaches the Sun. Results. A total of 21 and 34 magnetic flux ropes are identified during the third (21-day period) and fourth (17-day period) orbits of the Parker Solar Probe, respectively. We provide a statistical analysis of the identified structures, including their relation to the streamer belt and heliospheric current sheet crossing.
  5. Abstract Magnetic flux ropes are the centerpiece of solar eruptions. Direct measurements for the magnetic field of flux ropes are crucial for understanding the triggering and energy release processes, yet they remain heretofore elusive. Here we report microwave imaging spectroscopy observations of an M1.4-class solar flare that occurred on 2017 September 6, using data obtained by the Expanded Owens Valley Solar Array. This flare event is associated with a partial eruption of a twisted filament observed in H α by the Goode Solar Telescope at the Big Bear Solar Observatory. The extreme ultraviolet (EUV) and X-ray signatures of the event are generally consistent with the standard scenario of eruptive flares, with the presence of double flare ribbons connected by a bright flare arcade. Intriguingly, this partial eruption event features a microwave counterpart, whose spatial and temporal evolution closely follow the filament seen in H α and EUV. The spectral properties of the microwave source are consistent with nonthermal gyrosynchrotron radiation. Using spatially resolved microwave spectral analysis, we derive the magnetic field strength along the filament spine, which ranges from 600 to 1400 Gauss from its apex to the legs. The results agree well with the nonlinear force-free magnetic model extrapolatedmore »from the preflare photospheric magnetogram. We conclude that the microwave counterpart of the erupting filament is likely due to flare-accelerated electrons injected into the filament-hosting magnetic flux rope cavity following the newly reconnected magnetic field lines.« less