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  1. 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
  2. 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
  3. 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