skip to main content


Title: Features of Magnetic Field Switchbacks in Relation to the Local-field Geometry of Large-amplitude Alfvénic Oscillations: Wind and PSP Observations
Abstract In this Letter, we report observations of magnetic switchback (SB) features near 1 au using data from the Wind spacecraft. These features appear to be strikingly similar to the ones observed by the Parker Solar Probe mission closer to the Sun: namely, one-sided spikes (or enhancements) in the solar-wind bulk speed V that correlate/anticorrelate with the spikes seen in the radial-field component B R . In the solar-wind streams that we analyzed, these specific SB features near 1 au are associated with large-amplitude Alfvénic oscillations that propagate outward from the Sun along a local background (prevalent) magnetic field B 0 that is nearly radial. We also show that, when B 0 is nearly perpendicular to the radial direction, the large-amplitude Alfvénic oscillations display variations in V that are two sided (i.e., V alternately increases and decreases depending on the vector Δ B = B − B 0 ). As a consequence, SBs may not always appear as one-sided spikes in V , especially at larger heliocentric distances where the local background field statistically departs from the radial direction. We suggest that SBs can be well described by large-amplitude Alfvénic fluctuations if the field rotation is computed with respect to a well-determined local background field that, in some cases, may deviate from the large-scale Parker field.  more » « less
Award ID(s):
1752827
NSF-PAR ID:
10401632
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ; ; ;
Date Published:
Journal Name:
The Astrophysical Journal Letters
Volume:
932
Issue:
2
ISSN:
2041-8205
Page Range / eLocation ID:
L13
Format(s):
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract A major discovery of Parker Solar Probe (PSP) was the presence of large numbers of localized increases in the radial solar wind speed and associated sharp deflections of the magnetic field—switchbacks (SBs). A possible generation mechanism of SBs is through magnetic reconnection between open and closed magnetic flux near the solar surface, termed interchange reconnection, that leads to the ejection of flux ropes (FRs) into the solar wind. Observations also suggest that SBs undergo merging, consistent with an FR picture of these structures. The role of FR merging in controlling the structure of SBs in the solar wind is explored through direct observations, analytic analysis, and numerical simulations. Analytic analysis reveals key features of the structure of FRs and their scaling with heliocentric distance R, which are consistent with observations and demonstrate the critical role of merging in controlling the structure of SBs. FR merging is shown to energetically favor reductions in the strength of the wrapping magnetic field and the elongation of SBs. A further consequence is the resulting dominance of the axial magnetic field within SBs that leads to the observed characteristic sharp rotation of the magnetic field into the axial direction at the SB boundary. Finally, the radial scaling of the SB area in the FR model suggests that the observational probability of SB identification should be insensitive to R , which is consistent with the most recent statistical analysis of SB observations from PSP. 
    more » « less
  2. Abstract The Parker Solar Probe (PSP) routinely observes magnetic field deflections in the solar wind at distances less than 0.3 au from the Sun. These deflections are related to structures commonly called “switchbacks” (SBs), whose origins and characteristic properties are currently debated. Here, we use a database of visually selected SB intervals—and regions of solar wind plasma measured just before and after each SB—to examine plasma parameters, turbulent spectra from inertial to dissipation scales, and intermittency effects in these intervals. We find that many features, such as perpendicular stochastic heating rates and turbulence spectral slopes are fairly similar inside and outside of SBs. However, important kinetic properties, such as the characteristic break scale between the inertial to dissipation ranges differ inside and outside these intervals, as does the level of intermittency, which is notably enhanced inside SBs and in their close proximity, most likely due to magnetic field and velocity shears observed at the edges. We conclude that the plasma inside and outside of an SB, in most of the observed cases, belongs to the same stream, and that the evolution of these structures is most likely regulated by kinetic processes, which dominate small-scale structures at the SB edges. 
    more » « less
  3. The transport of energetic particles in response to solar wind turbulence is important for space weather. To understand charged particle transport, it is usually assumed that the phase of the turbulence is randomly distributed (the random phase approximation) in quasi-linear theory and simulations. In this paper, we calculate the coherence index, C ϕ , of solar wind turbulence observed by the Helios 2 and Parker Solar Probe spacecraft using the surrogate data technique to check if the assumption is valid. Here, values of C ϕ = 0 and 1 indicate that the phase coherence is random and correlated, respectively. We estimate that the coherence index at the resonant scale of energetic ions (10 MeV protons) is 0.1 at 0.87 and 0.65 au, 0.18 at 0.29 au, and 0.3 (0.35) at 0.09 au for super (sub)-Alfvénic intervals, respectively. Since the random phase approximation corresponds to C ϕ = 0, this may indicate that the random phase approximation is not valid for the transport of energetic particles in the inner heliosphere, especially very close to the Sun ( ∼ 0.09  au). 
    more » « less
  4. Abstract

    Magnetic switchbacks are rapid high-amplitude reversals of the radial magnetic field in the solar wind that do not involve a heliospheric current sheet crossing. First seen sporadically in the 1970s in Mariner and Helios data, switchbacks were later observed by the Ulysses spacecraft beyond 1 au and have been recently discovered to be a typical component of solar wind fluctuations in the inner heliosphere by the Parker Solar Probe spacecraft. While switchbacks are now well understood to be spherically polarized Alfvén waves thanks to Parker Solar Probe observations, their formation has been an intriguing and unsolved puzzle. Here we provide a simple yet predictive theory for the formation of these magnetic reversals: the switchbacks are produced by the distortion and twisting of circularly polarized Alfvén waves by a transversely varying radial wave propagation velocity. We provide an analytic expression for the magnetic field variation, establish the necessary and sufficient conditions for the formation of switchbacks, and show that the proposed mechanism works in a realistic solar wind scenario. We also show that the theoretical predictions are in excellent agreement with observations, and the high-amplitude radial oscillations are strongly correlated with the shear of the wave propagation speed. The correlation coefficient is around 0.3–0.5 for both encounter 1 and encounter 12. The probability of this being a lucky coincidence is essentially zero withp-values below 0.1%.

     
    more » « less
  5. Abstract

     We present a stochastic field line mapping model where the interplanetary magnetic field lines are described by a density distribution function satisfying a Fokker–Planck equation that is solved numerically. Due to the spiral geometry of the nominal Parker field and to the evolving nature of solar wind turbulence, the heliospheric diffusion of the magnetic field lines is both heterogeneous and anisotropic, including a radial component. The longitudinal distributions of the magnetic field lines are shown to be close to circular Gaussian distributions, although they develop a noticeable skewness. The magnetic field lines emanating from the Sun are found to differ, on average, from the spirals predicted by Parker. Although the spirals remain close to Archimedean, they are here underwound, on average. Our model predicts a spiral angle that is smaller by ∼5° than the Parker spiral angle at Earth’s orbit for the same solar wind speed ofVsw= 400 km s−1. It also predicts an angular position on the solar disk of the best magnetically connected footpoint to an observer at 1 au that is shifted westward by ∼10° with respect to the Parker’s field model. This significantly changes the angle of the most probable magnetic connection between possible sources on the Sun and observers in the inner heliosphere. The results have direct implications for the heliospheric transport of “scatter-free” electrons accelerated in the aftermath of solar eruptions.

     
    more » « less