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  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available April 1, 2023
  2. 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
  3. 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
  4. 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
  5. Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 1, 2022
  6. Context. The first encounters of Parker Solar Probe (PSP) with the Sun revealed the presence of ubiquitous localised magnetic deflections in the inner heliosphere; these structures, often called switchbacks, are particularly striking in solar wind streams originating from coronal holes. Aims. We report the direct piece of evidence for magnetic reconnection occurring at the boundaries of three switchbacks crossed by PSP at a distance of 45 to 48 solar radii to the Sun during its first encounter. Methods. We analyse the magnetic field and plasma parameters from the FIELDS and Solar Wind Electrons Alphas and Protons instruments. Results. The threemore »structures analysed all show typical signatures of magnetic reconnection. The ion velocity and magnetic field are first correlated and then anti-correlated at the inbound and outbound edges of the bifurcated current sheets with a central ion flow jet. Most of the reconnection events have a strong guide field and moderate magnetic shear, but one current sheet shows indications of quasi anti-parallel reconnection in conjunction with a magnetic field magnitude decrease by 90%. Conclusions. Given the wealth of intense current sheets observed by PSP, reconnection at switchback boundaries appears to be rare. However, as the switchback boundaries accomodate currents, one can conjecture that the geometry of these boundaries offers favourable conditions for magnetic reconnection to occur. Such a mechanism would thus contribute in reconfiguring the magnetic field of the switchbacks, affecting the dynamics of the solar wind and eventually contributing to the blending of the structures with the regular wind as they propagate away from the Sun.« less
  7. Context. Aims. We systematically search for magnetic flux rope structures in the solar wind to within the closest distance to the Sun of ~0.13 AU, using data from the third and fourth orbits of the Parker Solar Probe. Methods. We extended our previous magnetic helicity-based technique of identifying magnetic flux rope structures. The method was improved upon to incorporate the azimuthal flow, which becomes larger as the spacecraft approaches the Sun. Results. A total of 21 and 34 magnetic flux ropes are identified during the third (21-day period) and fourth (17-day period) orbits of the Parker Solar Probe, respectively. Wemore »provide a statistical analysis of the identified structures, including their relation to the streamer belt and heliospheric current sheet crossing.« less
  8. During three of its first five orbits around the Sun, Parker Solar Probe (PSP) crossed the large-scale heliospheric current sheet (HCS) multiple times and provided unprecedented detailed plasma and field observations of the near-Sun HCS. We report the common detections by PSP of reconnection exhaust signatures in the HCS at heliocentric distances of 29.5–107 solar radii during encounters 1, 4, and 5. Both sunward and antisunward-directed reconnection exhausts were observed. In the sunward reconnection exhausts, PSP detected counterstreaming strahl electrons, indicating that HCS reconnection resulted in the formation of closed magnetic field lines with both ends connected to the Sun.more »In the antisunward exhausts, PSP observed dropouts of strahl electrons, consistent with the reconnected HCS field lines being disconnected from the Sun. The common detection of reconnection in the HCS suggests that reconnection is almost always active in the HCS near the Sun. Furthermore, the occurrence of multiple long-duration partial crossings of the HCS suggests that HCS reconnection could produce chains of large bulges with spatial dimensions of up to several solar radii. The finding of the prevalence of reconnection in the HCS is somewhat surprising since PSP has revealed that the HCS is much thicker than the kinetic scales required for reconnection onset. The observations are also in stark contrast with the apparent absence of reconnection in most of the small-scale and much more intense current sheets encountered near perihelia, many of which are associated with “switchbacks”. Thus, the PSP findings suggest that large-scale dynamics, either locally in the solar wind or within the coronal source of the HCS (at the tip of helmet streamers), plays a critical role in triggering reconnection onset.« less