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  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 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
  2. Aims. Solar Orbiter (SolO) was launched on February 9, 2020, allowing us to study the nature of turbulence in the inner heliopshere. We investigate the evolution of anisotropic turbulence in the fast and slow solar wind in the inner heliosphere using the nearly incompressible magnetohydrodynamic (NI MHD) turbulence model and SolO measurements. Methods. We calculated the two dimensional (2D) and the slab variances of the energy in forward and backward propagating modes, the fluctuating magnetic energy, the fluctuating kinetic energy, the normalized residual energy, and the normalized cross-helicity as a function of the angle between the mean solar wind speedmore »and the mean magnetic field ( θ UB ), and as a function of the heliocentric distance using SolO measurements. We compared the observed results and the theoretical results of the NI MHD turbulence model as a function of the heliocentric distance. Results. The results show that the ratio of 2D energy and slab energy of forward and backward propagating modes, magnetic field fluctuations, and kinetic energy fluctuations increases as the angle between the mean solar wind flow and the mean magnetic field increases from θ UB  = 0° to approximately θ UB  = 90° and then decreases as θ UB  → 180°. We find that solar wind turbulence is a superposition of the dominant 2D component and a minority slab component as a function of the heliocentric distance. We find excellent agreement between the theoretical results and observed results as a function of the heliocentric distance.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 1, 2022
  3. Aims. An interplanetary coronal mass ejection (ICME) event was observed by the Solar Orbiter at 0.8 AU on 2020 April 19 and by Wind at 1 AU on 2020 April 20. Futhermore, an interplanetary shock wave was driven in front of the ICME. Here, we focus on the transmission of the magnetic fluctuations across the shock and we analyze the characteristic wave modes of solar wind turbulence in the vicinity of the shock observed by both spacecraft. Methods. The observed ICME event is characterized by a magnetic helicity-based technique. The ICME-driven shock normal was determined by magnetic coplanarity method formore »the Solar Orbiter and using a mixed plasma and field approach for Wind. The power spectra of magnetic field fluctuations were generated by applying both a fast Fourier transform and Morlet wavelet analysis. To understand the nature of waves observed near the shock, we used the normalized magnetic helicity as a diagnostic parameter. The wavelet-reconstructed magnetic field fluctuation hodograms were used to further study the polarization properties of waves. Results. We find that the ICME-driven shock observed by Solar Orbiter and Wind is a fast, forward oblique shock with a more perpendicular shock angle at the Wind position. After the shock crossing, the magnetic field fluctuation power increases. Most of the magnetic field fluctuation power resides in the transverse fluctuations. In the vicinity of the shock, both spacecraft observe right-hand polarized waves in the spacecraft frame. The upstream wave signatures fall within a relatively broad and low frequency band, which might be attributed to low frequency MHD waves excited by the streaming particles. For the downstream magnetic wave activity, we find oblique kinetic Alfvén waves with frequencies near the proton cyclotron frequency in the spacecraft frame. The frequency of the downstream waves increases by a factor of ∼7–10 due to the shock compression and the Doppler effect.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 1, 2022
  4. 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. Comparativemore »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 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
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 1, 2022
  5. 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
  6. Abstract We present observations of ≳10–100 keV nucleon −1 suprathermal (ST) H, He, O, and Fe ions associated with crossings of the heliospheric current sheet (HCS) at radial distances of <0.1 au from the Sun. Our key findings are as follows: (1) very few heavy ions are detected during the first full crossing, the heavy-ion intensities are reduced during the second partial crossing and peak just after the second crossing; (2) ion arrival times exhibit no velocity dispersion; (3) He pitch-angle distributions track the magnetic field polarity reversal and show up to ∼10:1 anti-sunward, field-aligned flows and beams closer tomore »the HCS that become nearly isotropic farther from the HCS; (4) the He spectrum steepens either side of the HCS, and the He, O, and Fe spectra exhibit power laws of the form ∼ E −4 – E 6 ; and (5) maximum energies E X increase with the ion’s charge-to-mass ( Q / M ) ratio as E X / E H ∝ ( Q X / M X ) δ , where δ ∼ 0.65–0.76, assuming that the average Q states are similar to those measured in gradual and impulsive solar energetic particle events at 1 au. The absence of velocity dispersion in combination with strong field-aligned anisotropies closer to the HCS appears to rule out solar flares and near-Sun coronal-mass-ejection-driven shocks. These new observations present challenges not only for mechanisms that employ direct parallel electric fields and organize maximum energies according to E / Q but also for local diffusive and magnetic-reconnection-driven acceleration models. Reevaluation of our current understanding of the production and transport of energetic ions is necessary to understand this near-solar, current-sheet-associated population of ST ions.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available March 1, 2023
  7. 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.more »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. 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
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 1, 2022
  8. The magnetometer instrument on the Solar Orbiter mission is designed to measure the magnetic field local to the spacecraft continuously for the entire mission duration. The need to characterise not only the background magnetic field but also its variations on scales from far above to well below the proton gyroscale result in challenging requirements on stability, precision, and noise, as well as magnetic and operational limitations on both the spacecraft and other instruments. The challenging vibration and thermal environment has led to significant development of the mechanical sensor design. The overall instrument design, performance, data products, and operational strategy aremore »described.« less