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  1. Abstract The fast solar wind that fills the heliosphere originates from deep within regions of open magnetic field on the Sun called ‘coronal holes’. The energy source responsible for accelerating the plasma is widely debated; however, there is evidence that it is ultimately magnetic in nature, with candidate mechanisms including wave heating 1,2 and interchange reconnection 3–5 . The coronal magnetic field near the solar surface is structured on scales associated with ‘supergranulation’ convection cells, whereby descending flows create intense fields. The energy density in these ‘network’ magnetic field bundles is a candidate energy source for the wind. Here we report measurements of fast solar wind streams from the Parker Solar Probe (PSP) spacecraft 6 that provide strong evidence for the interchange reconnection mechanism. We show that the supergranulation structure at the coronal base remains imprinted in the near-Sun solar wind, resulting in asymmetric patches of magnetic ‘switchbacks’ 7,8 and bursty wind streams with power-law-like energetic ion spectra to beyond 100 keV. Computer simulations of interchange reconnection support key features of the observations, including the ion spectra. Important characteristics of interchange reconnection in the low corona are inferred from the data, including that the reconnection is collisionless and that the energy release rate is sufficient to power the fast wind. In this scenario, magnetic reconnection is continuous and the wind is driven by both the resulting plasma pressure and the radial Alfvénic flow bursts. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 8, 2024
  2. Abstract We present EUV solar observations showing evidence for omnipresent jetting activity driven by small-scale magnetic reconnection at the base of the solar corona. We argue that the physical mechanism that heats and drives the solar wind at its source is ubiquitous magnetic reconnection in the form of small-scale jetting activity (a.k.a. jetlets). This jetting activity, like the solar wind and the heating of the coronal plasma, is ubiquitous regardless of the solar cycle phase. Each event arises from small-scale reconnection of opposite-polarity magnetic fields producing a short-lived jet of hot plasma and Alfvén waves into the corona. The discrete nature of these jetlet events leads to intermittent outflows from the corona, which homogenize as they propagate away from the Sun and form the solar wind. This discovery establishes the importance of small-scale magnetic reconnection in solar and stellar atmospheres in understanding ubiquitous phenomena such as coronal heating and solar wind acceleration. Based on previous analyses linking the switchbacks to the magnetic network, we also argue that these new observations might provide the link between the magnetic activity at the base of the corona and the switchback solar wind phenomenon. These new observations need to be put in the bigger picture of the role of magnetic reconnection and the diverse form of jetting in the solar atmosphere. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available March 1, 2024
  3. Abstract

    Revealing the formation, dynamics, and contribution to plasma heating of magnetic field fluctuations in the solar wind is an important task for heliospheric physics and for a general plasma turbulence theory. Spacecraft observations in the solar wind are limited to spatially localized measurements, so that the evolution of fluctuation properties with solar wind propagation is mostly studied via statistical analyses of data sets collected by different spacecraft at various radial distances from the Sun. In this study we investigate the evolution of turbulence in the Earth’s magnetosheath, a plasma system sharing many properties with the solar wind. The near-Earth space environment is being explored by multiple spacecraft missions, which may allow us to trace the evolution of magnetosheath fluctuations with simultaneous measurements at different distances from their origin, the Earth’s bow shock. We compare ARTEMIS and Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) Mission measurements in the Earth magnetosheath and Parker Solar Probe measurements of the solar wind at different radial distances. The comparison is supported by three numerical simulations of the magnetosheath magnetic and plasma fluctuations: global hybrid simulation resolving ion kinetic and including effects of Earth’s dipole field and realistic bow shock, hybrid and Hall-MHD simulations in expanding boxes that mimic the magnetosheath volume expansion with the radial distance from the dayside bow shock. The comparison shows that the magnetosheath can be considered as a miniaturized version of the solar wind system with much stronger plasma thermal anisotropy and an almost equal amount of forward and backward propagating Alfvén waves. Thus, many processes, such as turbulence development and kinetic instability contributions to plasma heating, occurring on slow timescales and over large distances in the solar wind, occur more rapidly in the magnetosheath and can be investigated in detail by multiple near-Earth spacecraft.

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  4. 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 is 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. 
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  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 β 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. 
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  6. null (Ed.)
  7. 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 three 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. 
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  8. We present a detailed guide to advanced collisionless fluid models that incorporate kinetic effects into the fluid framework, and that are much closer to the collisionless kinetic description than traditional magnetohydrodynamics. Such fluid models are directly applicable to modelling the turbulent evolution of a vast array of astrophysical plasmas, such as the solar corona and the solar wind, the interstellar medium, as well as accretion disks and galaxy clusters. The text can be viewed as a detailed guide to Landau fluid models and it is divided into two parts. Part 1 is dedicated to fluid models that are obtained by closing the fluid hierarchy with simple (non-Landau fluid) closures. Part 2 is dedicated to Landau fluid closures. Here in Part 1, we discuss the fluid model of Chew–Goldberger–Low (CGL) in great detail, together with fluid models that contain dispersive effects introduced by the Hall term and by the finite Larmor radius corrections to the pressure tensor. We consider dispersive effects introduced by the non-gyrotropic heat flux vectors. We investigate the parallel and oblique firehose instability, and show that the non-gyrotropic heat flux strongly influences the maximum growth rate of these instabilities. Furthermore, we discuss fluid models that contain evolution equations for the gyrotropic heat flux fluctuations and that are closed at the fourth-moment level by prescribing a specific form for the distribution function. For the bi-Maxwellian distribution, such a closure is known as the ‘normal’ closure. We also discuss a fluid closure for the bi-kappa distribution. Finally, by considering one-dimensional Maxwellian fluid closures at higher-order moments, we show that such fluid models are always unstable. The last possible non Landau fluid closure is therefore the ‘normal’ closure, and beyond the fourth-order moment, Landau fluid closures are required. 
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  9. In Part 2 of our guide to collisionless fluid models, we concentrate on Landau fluid closures. These closures were pioneered by Hammett and Perkins and allow for the rigorous incorporation of collisionless Landau damping into a fluid framework. It is Landau damping that sharply separates traditional fluid models and collisionless kinetic theory, and is the main reason why the usual fluid models do not converge to the kinetic description, even in the long-wavelength low-frequency limit. We start with a brief introduction to kinetic theory, where we discuss in detail the plasma dispersion function $Z(\unicode[STIX]{x1D701})$ , and the associated plasma response function $R(\unicode[STIX]{x1D701})=1+\unicode[STIX]{x1D701}Z(\unicode[STIX]{x1D701})=-Z^{\prime }(\unicode[STIX]{x1D701})/2$ . We then consider a one-dimensional (1-D) (electrostatic) geometry and make a significant effort to map all possible Landau fluid closures that can be constructed at the fourth-order moment level. These closures for parallel moments have general validity from the largest astrophysical scales down to the Debye length, and we verify their validity by considering examples of the (proton and electron) Landau damping of the ion-acoustic mode, and the electron Landau damping of the Langmuir mode. We proceed by considering 1-D closures at higher-order moments than the fourth order, and as was concluded in Part 1, this is not possible without Landau fluid closures. We show that it is possible to reproduce linear Landau damping in the fluid framework to any desired precision, thus showing the convergence of the fluid and collisionless kinetic descriptions. We then consider a 3-D (electromagnetic) geometry in the gyrotropic (long-wavelength low-frequency) limit and map all closures that are available at the fourth-order moment level. In appendix A, we provide comprehensive tables with Padé approximants of $R(\unicode[STIX]{x1D701})$ up to the eighth-pole order, with many given in an analytic form. 
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