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  1. Abstract The Parker Solar Probe (PSP) entered a region of sub-Alfvénic solar wind during encounter 8, and we present the first detailed analysis of low-frequency turbulence properties in this novel region. The magnetic field and flow velocity vectors were highly aligned during this interval. By constructing spectrograms of the normalized magnetic helicity, cross-helicity, and residual energy, we find that PSP observed primarily Alfvénic fluctuations, a consequence of the highly field-aligned flow that renders quasi-2D fluctuations unobservable to PSP. We extend Taylor’s hypothesis to sub- and super-Alfvénic flows. Spectra for the fluctuating forward and backward Elsässer variables ( z ± ,more »respectively) are presented, showing that z + modes dominate z − by an order of magnitude or more, and the z + spectrum is a power law in frequency (parallel wavenumber) f −3/2 ( k ∥ − 3 / 2 ) compared to the convex z − spectrum with f −3/2 ( k ∥ − 3 / 2 ) at low frequencies, flattening around a transition frequency (at which the nonlinear and Alfvén timescales are balanced) to f −1.25 at higher frequencies. The observed spectra are well fitted using a spectral theory for nearly incompressible magnetohydrodynamics assuming a wavenumber anisotropy k ⊥ ∼ k ∥ 3 / 4 , that the z + fluctuations experience primarily nonlinear interactions, and that the minority z − fluctuations experience both nonlinear and Alfvénic interactions with z + fluctuations. The density spectrum is a power law that resembles neither the z ± spectra nor the compressible magnetic field spectrum, suggesting that these are advected entropic rather than magnetosonic modes and not due to the parametric decay instability. Spectra in the neighboring modestly super-Alfvénic intervals are similar.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available February 1, 2023
  2. Free, publicly-accessible full text available April 1, 2023
  3. Abstract We present a data set and properties of 18,785 proton kinetic-scale current sheets collected over 124 days in the solar wind using magnetic field measurements at 1/11 s resolution aboard the Wind spacecraft. We show that all of the current sheets are in the parameter range where reconnection is not suppressed by diamagnetic drift of the X-line. We argue this necessary condition for magnetic reconnection is automatically satisfied due to the geometry of current sheets dictated by their source, which is the local plasma turbulence. The current sheets are shown to be elongated along the background magnetic field andmore »dependence of the current sheet geometry on local plasma beta is revealed. We conclude that reconnection in the solar wind is not likely to be suppressed or controlled by the diamagnetic suppression condition.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 1, 2022
  4. Abstract Radio emission from interplanetary shocks, planetary foreshocks, and some solar flares occurs in the so-called “plasma emission” framework. The generally accepted scenario begins with electrostatic Langmuir waves that are driven by a suprathermal electron beam on the Landau resonance. These Langmuir waves then mode-convert to freely propagating electromagnetic emissions at the local plasma frequency f pe and/or its harmonic 2 f pe . However, the details of the physics of mode conversion are unclear, and so far the magnetic component of the plasma waves has not been definitively measured. Several spacecraft have measured quasi-monochromatic Langmuir or slow extraordinary modesmore »(sometimes called z -modes) in the solar wind. These coherent waves are expected to have a weak magnetic component, which has never been observed in an unambiguous way. Here we report on the direct measurement of the magnetic signature of these waves using the Search Coil Magnetometer sensor of the Parker Solar Probe/FIELDS instrument. Using simulations of wave propagation in an inhomogeneous plasma, we show that the appearance of the magnetic component of the slow extraordinary mode is highly influenced by the presence of density inhomogeneities that occasionally cause the refractive index to drop to low values where the wave has strong electromagnetic properties.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available March 1, 2023
  5. 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 ismore »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.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available February 1, 2023
  6. Abstract The origin of switchbacks in the solar wind is discussed in two classes of theory that differ in the location of the source being either near the transition region near the Sun or in the solar wind itself. The two classes of theory differ in their predictions of the switchback rate (the number of switchbacks observed per hour) as a function of distance from the Sun. To distinguish between these theories, one-hour averages of Parker Solar Probe data were averaged over five orbits to find the following: (1) The hourly averaged switchback rate was independent of distance from themore »Sun. (2) The average switchback rate increased with solar wind speed. (3) The switchback size perpendicular to the flow increased as R , the distance from the Sun, while the radial size increased as R 2 , resulting in an increasing switchback aspect ratio with distance from the Sun. (4) The hourly averaged and maximum switchback rotation angles did not depend on the solar wind speed or distance from the Sun. These results are consistent with switchback formation in the transition region because their increase of tangential size with radius compensates for the radial falloff of their equatorial density to produce switchback rates that are independent of radial distance. This constant switchback rate is inconsistent with an in situ source. The switchback size and aspect ratio, but not their hourly average or maximum rotation angle, increased with radial distance to 100 solar radii. Additionally, quiet intervals between switchback patches occurred at the lowest solar wind speeds.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available September 1, 2022
  7. Abstract Parker Solar Probe (PSP) observed predominately Alfvénic fluctuations in the solar wind near the Sun where the magnetic field tends to be radially aligned. In this paper, two magnetic-field-aligned solar wind flow intervals during PSP’s first two orbits are analyzed. Observations of these intervals indicate strong signatures of parallel/antiparallel-propagating waves. We utilize multiple analysis techniques to extract the properties of the observed waves in both magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) and kinetic scales. At the MHD scale, outward-propagating Alfvén waves dominate both intervals, and outward-propagating fast magnetosonic waves present the second-largest contribution in the spectral energy density. At kinetic scales, we identifymore »the circularly polarized plasma waves propagating near the proton gyrofrequency in both intervals. However, the sense of magnetic polarization in the spacecraft frame is observed to be opposite in the two intervals, although they both possess a sunward background magnetic field. The ion-scale plasma wave observed in the first interval can be either an inward-propagating ion cyclotron wave (ICW) or an outward-propagating fast-mode/whistler wave in the plasma frame, while in the second interval it can be explained as an outward ICW or inward fast-mode/whistler wave. The identification of the exact kinetic wave mode is more difficult to confirm owing to the limited plasma data resolution. The presence of ion-scale waves near the Sun suggests that ion cyclotron resonance may be one of the ubiquitous kinetic physical processes associated with small-scale magnetic fluctuations and kinetic instabilities in the inner heliosphere.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available November 30, 2022
  8. Abstract The SWEAP instrument suite on Parker Solar Probe (PSP) has detected numerous proton beams associated with coherent, circularly polarized, ion-scale waves observed by PSP’s FIELDS instrument suite. Measurements during PSP Encounters 4−8 revealed pronounced complex shapes in the proton velocity distribution functions (VDFs), in which the tip of the beam undergoes strong perpendicular diffusion, resulting in VDF level contours that resemble a “hammerhead.” We refer to these proton beams, with their attendant “hammerhead” features, as the ion strahl. We present an example of these observations occurring simultaneously with a 7 hr ion-scale wave storm and show results from amore »preliminary attempt at quantifying the occurrence of ion-strahl broadening through three-component ion VDF fitting. We also provide a possible explanation of the ion perpendicular scattering based on quasilinear theory and the resonant scattering of beam ions by parallel-propagating, right circularly polarized, fast magnetosonic/whistler waves.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available January 1, 2023
  9. 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 βmore »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.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 1, 2022
  10. Abstract In this paper we examine a low-energy solar energetic particle (SEP) event observed by IS⊙IS’s Energetic Particle Instrument-Low (EPI-Lo) inside 0.18 au on 2020 September 30. This small SEP event has a very interesting time profile and ion composition. Our results show that the maximum energy and peak in intensity are observed mainly along the open radial magnetic field. The event shows velocity dispersion, and strong particle anisotropies are observed throughout the event, showing that more particles are streaming outward from the Sun. We do not see a shock in the in situ plasma or magnetic field data throughoutmore »the event. Heavy ions, such as O and Fe, were detected in addition to protons and 4He, but without significant enhancements in 3He or energetic electrons. Our analysis shows that this event is associated with a slow streamer blowout coronal mass ejection (SBO-CME), and the signatures of this small CME event are consistent with those typical of larger CME events. The time–intensity profile of this event shows that the Parker Solar Probe encountered the western flank of the SBO-CME. The anisotropic and dispersive nature of this event in a shockless local plasma gives indications that these particles are most likely accelerated remotely near the Sun by a weak shock or compression wave ahead of the SBO-CME. This event may represent direct observations of the source of the low-energy SEP seed particle population.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available February 1, 2023