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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. 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
  3. 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
  4. Abstract In van der Holst et al. (2019), we modeled the solar corona and inner heliosphere of the first encounter of NASA’s Parker Solar Probe (PSP) using the Alfvén Wave Solar atmosphere Model (AWSoM) with Air Force Data Assimilative Photospheric flux Transport–Global Oscillation Network Group magnetograms, and made predictions of the state of the solar wind plasma for the first encounter. AWSoM uses low-frequency Alfvén wave turbulence to address the coronal heating and acceleration. Here, we revise our simulations, by introducing improvements in the energy partitioning of the wave dissipation to the electron and anisotropic proton heating and using amore »better grid design. We compare the new AWSoM results with the PSP data and find improved agreement with the magnetic field, turbulence level, and parallel proton plasma beta. To deduce the sources of the solar wind observed by PSP, we use the AWSoM model to determine the field line connectivity between PSP locations near the perihelion at 2018 November 6 UT 03:27 and the solar surface. Close to the perihelion, the field lines trace back to a negative-polarity region about the equator.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available February 1, 2023
  5. 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
  6. 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
  7. 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
  8. 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
  9. The fourth orbit of Parker Solar Probe (PSP) reached heliocentric distances down to 27.9 R ⊙ , allowing solar wind turbulence and acceleration mechanisms to be studied in situ closer to the Sun than previously possible. The turbulence properties were found to be significantly different in the inbound and outbound portions of PSP’s fourth solar encounter, which was likely due to the proximity to the heliospheric current sheet (HCS) in the outbound period. Near the HCS, in the streamer belt wind, the turbulence was found to have lower amplitudes, higher magnetic compressibility, a steeper magnetic field spectrum (with a spectralmore »index close to –5/3 rather than –3/2), a lower Alfvénicity, and a ‘1∕ f ’ break at much lower frequencies. These are also features of slow wind at 1 au, suggesting the near-Sun streamer belt wind to be the prototypical slow solar wind. The transition in properties occurs at a predicted angular distance of ≈4° from the HCS, suggesting ≈8° as the full-width of the streamer belt wind at these distances. While the majority of the Alfvénic turbulence energy fluxes measured by PSP are consistent with those required for reflection-driven turbulence models of solar wind acceleration, the fluxes in the streamer belt are significantly lower than the model predictions, suggesting that additional mechanisms are necessary to explain the acceleration of the streamer belt solar wind.« less
  10. Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 1, 2022