- NSF-PAR ID:
- Date Published:
- Journal Name:
- The Astrophysical Journal
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- Medium: X
- Sponsoring Org:
- National Science Foundation
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Abstract The fast solar wind that fills the heliosphere originates from deep within regions of open magnetic field on the Sun called ‘coronal holes’. The energy source responsible for accelerating the plasma is widely debated; however, there is evidence that it is ultimately magnetic in nature, with candidate mechanisms including wave heating 1,2 and interchange reconnection 3–5 . The coronal magnetic field near the solar surface is structured on scales associated with ‘supergranulation’ convection cells, whereby descending flows create intense fields. The energy density in these ‘network’ magnetic field bundles is a candidate energy source for the wind. Here we report measurements of fast solar wind streams from the Parker Solar Probe (PSP) spacecraft 6 that provide strong evidence for the interchange reconnection mechanism. We show that the supergranulation structure at the coronal base remains imprinted in the near-Sun solar wind, resulting in asymmetric patches of magnetic ‘switchbacks’ 7,8 and bursty wind streams with power-law-like energetic ion spectra to beyond 100 keV. Computer simulations of interchange reconnection support key features of the observations, including the ion spectra. Important characteristics of interchange reconnection in the low corona are inferred from the data, including that the reconnection is collisionless and that the energy release rate is sufficient to power the fast wind. In this scenario, magnetic reconnection is continuous and the wind is driven by both the resulting plasma pressure and the radial Alfvénic flow bursts.more » « less
In this paper, we propose that flux cancellation on small granular scales (≲1000 km) ubiquitously drives reconnection at a multitude of sites in the low solar atmosphere, contributing to chromospheric/coronal heating and the generation of the solar wind. We analyze the energy conversion in these small-scale flux cancellation events using both analytical models and three-dimensional, resistive magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) simulations. The analytical models—in combination with the latest estimates of flux cancellation rates—allow us to estimate the energy release rates due to cancellation events, which are found to be on the order 106–107erg cm−2s−1, sufficient to heat the chromosphere and corona of the quiet Sun and active regions, and to power the solar wind. The MHD simulations confirm the conversion of energy in reconnecting current sheets, in a geometry representing a small-scale bipole being advected toward an intergranular lane. A ribbon-like jet of heated plasma that is accelerated upward could also escape the Sun as the solar wind in an open-field configuration. We conclude that through two phases of atmospheric energy release—precancellation and cancellation—the cancellation of photospheric magnetic flux fragments and the associated magnetic reconnection may provide a substantial energy and mass flux contribution to coronal heating and solar wind generation.
We investigate the thermal, kinematic, and magnetic structure of small-scale heating events in an emerging flux region (EFR). We use high-resolution multiline observations (including Ca
ii8542 Å, Ca iiK, and the Fe i6301 Å line pair) of an EFR located close to the disk center from the CRISP and CHROMIS instruments at the Swedish 1 m Solar Telescope. We perform non-LTE inversions of multiple spectral lines to infer the temperature, velocity, and magnetic field structure of the heating events. Additionally, we use the data-driven Coronal Global Evolutionary Model to simulate the evolution of the 3D magnetic field configuration above the events and understand their dynamics. Furthermore, we analyze the differential emission measure to gain insights into the heating of the coronal plasma in the EFR. Our analysis reveals the presence of numerous small-scale heating events in the EFR, primarily located at polarity inversion lines of bipolar structures. These events not only heat the lower atmosphere but also significantly heat the corona. The data-driven simulations, along with the observed enhancement of currents and Poynting flux, suggest that magnetic reconnection in the lower atmosphere is likely responsible for the observed heating at these sites.
The EUI instrument on the Solar Orbiter spacecraft has obtained the most stable, high-resolution images of the solar corona from its orbit with a perihelion near 0.4 au. A sequence of 360 images obtained at 17.1 nm, between 2022 October 25 19:00 and 19:30 UT, is scrutinized. One image pixel corresponds to 148 km at the solar surface. The widely held belief that the outer atmosphere of the Sun is in a continuous state of magnetic turmoil is pitted against the EUI data. The observed plasma variations appear to fall into two classes. By far the dominant behavior is a very low amplitude variation in brightness (1%) in the coronal loops, with larger variations in some footpoint regions. No hints of observable changes in magnetic topology are associated with such small variations. The larger-amplitude, more rapid, rarer, and less well organized changes are associated with flux emergence. It is suggested therefore that while magnetic reconnection drives the latter, most of the active corona is heated with no evidence of a role for large-scale (observable) reconnection. Since most coronal emission-line widths are subsonic, the bulk of coronal heating, if driven by reconnection, can only be of tangentially discontinuous magnetic fields, with angles below about 0.5
c S/ cA∼ 0.3 β, with βthe plasma beta parameter (∼0.01) and c Sand cAthe sound and Alfvén speeds, respectively. If heated by multiple small flare-like events, then these must be ≲1021erg, i.e., picoflares. But processes other than reconnection have yet to be ruled out, such as viscous dissipation, which may contribute to the steady heating of coronal loops over active regions.
Abstract One of the striking observations from the Parker Solar Probe (PSP) spacecraft is the prevalence in the inner heliosphere of large amplitude, Alfvénic magnetic field reversals termed switchbacks . These δ B R / B ∼ ( 1 ) fluctuations occur over a range of timescales and in patches separated by intervals of quiet, radial magnetic field. We use measurements from PSP to demonstrate that patches of switchbacks are localized within the extensions of plasma structures originating at the base of the corona. These structures are characterized by an increase in alpha particle abundance, Mach number, plasma β and pressure, and by depletions in the magnetic field magnitude and electron temperature. These intervals are in pressure balance, implying stationary spatial structure, and the field depressions are consistent with overexpanded flux tubes. The structures are asymmetric in Carrington longitude with a steeper leading edge and a small (∼1°) edge of hotter plasma and enhanced magnetic field fluctuations. Some structures contain suprathermal ions to ∼85 keV that we argue are the energetic tail of the solar wind alpha population. The structures are separated in longitude by angular scales associated with supergranulation. This suggests that these switchbacks originate near the leading edge of the diverging magnetic field funnels associated with the network magnetic field—the primary wind sources. We propose an origin of the magnetic field switchbacks, hot plasma and suprathermals, alpha particles in interchange reconnection events just above the solar transition region and our measurements represent the extended regions of a turbulent outflow exhaust.more » « less