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  1. Abstract Interstellar pickup ions are an ubiquitous and thermodynamically important component of the solar wind plasma in the heliosphere. These PUIs are born from the ionization of the interstellar neutral gas, consisting of hydrogen, helium, and trace amounts of heavier elements, in the solar wind as the heliosphere moves through the local interstellar medium. As cold interstellar neutral atoms become ionized, they form an energetic ring beam distribution comoving with the solar wind. Subsequent scattering in pitch angle by intrinsic and self-generated turbulence and their advection with the radially expanding solar wind leads to the formation of a filled-shell PUImore »distribution, whose density and pressure relative to the thermal solar wind ions grows with distance from the Sun. This paper reviews the history of in situ measurements of interstellar PUIs in the heliosphere. Starting with the first detection in the 1980s, interstellar PUIs were identified by their highly nonthermal distribution with a cutoff at twice the solar wind speed. Measurements of the PUI distribution shell cutoff and the He focusing cone, a downwind region of increased density formed by the solar gravity, have helped characterize the properties of the interstellar gas from near-Earth vantage points. The preferential heating of interstellar PUIs compared to the core solar wind has become evident in the existence of suprathermal PUI tails, the nonadiabatic cooling index of the PUI distribution, and PUIs’ mediation of interplanetary shocks. Unlike the Voyager and Pioneer spacecraft, New Horizon’s Solar Wind Around Pluto (SWAP) instrument is taking the only direct measurements of interstellar PUIs in the outer heliosphere, currently out to $\sim47~\text{au}$ ∼ 47 au from the Sun or halfway to the heliospheric termination shock.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 1, 2023
  2. 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
  3. 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