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  1. Abstract

    This review summarizes the current state of research aiming at a description of the global heliosphere using both analytical and numerical modeling efforts, particularly in view of the overall plasma/neutral flow and magnetic field structure, and its relation to energetic neutral atoms. Being part of a larger volume on current heliospheric research, it also lays out a number of key concepts and describes several classic, though still relevant early works on the topic. Regarding numerical simulations, emphasis is put on magnetohydrodynamic (MHD), multi-fluid, kinetic-MHD, and hybrid modeling frameworks. Finally, open issues relating to the physical relevance of so-called “croissant” models of the heliosphere, as well as the general (dis)agreement of model predictions with observations are highlighted and critically discussed.

  2. Turbulence is ubiquitous in space plasmas. It is one of the most important subjects in heliospheric physics, as it plays a fundamental role in the solar wind—local interstellar medium interaction and in controlling energetic particle transport and acceleration processes. Understanding the properties of turbulence in various regions of the heliosphere with vastly different conditions can lead to answers to many unsolved questions opened up by observations of the magnetic field, plasma, pickup ions, energetic particles, radio and UV emissions, and so on. Several space missions have helped us gain preliminary knowledge on turbulence in the outer heliosphere and the very local interstellar medium. Among the past few missions, the Voyagers have paved the way for such investigations. This paper summarizes the open challenges and voices our support for the development of future missions dedicated to the study of turbulence throughout the heliosphere and beyond.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available November 18, 2023
  3. Abstract Collisionless shocks channel the energy of the directed plasma flow into the heating of the plasma species and magnetic field enhancement. The kinetic processes at the shock transition cause the ion distributions just behind the shock to be nongyrotropic. Gyrotropization and subsequent isotropization occur at different spatial scales. Accordingly, for a given upstream plasma and magnetic field state, there would be different downstream states corresponding to the anisotropic and isotropic regions. Thus, at least two sets of Rankine–Hugoniot relations are needed, in general, to describe the connection of the downstream measurable parameters to the upstream ones. We establish the relation between the two sets.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available November 1, 2023
  4. Abstract The solar wind (SW) and local interstellar medium (LISM) are turbulent media. Their interaction is governed by complex physical processes and creates heliospheric regions with significantly different properties in terms of particle populations, bulk flow and turbulence. Our knowledge of the solar wind turbulence nature and dynamics mostly relies on near-Earth and near-Sun observations, and has been increasingly improving in recent years due to the availability of a wealth of space missions, including multi-spacecraft missions. In contrast, the properties of turbulence in the outer heliosphere are still not completely understood. In situ observations by Voyager and New Horizons , and remote neutral atom measurements by IBEX strongly suggest that turbulence is one of the critical processes acting at the heliospheric interface. It is intimately connected to charge exchange processes responsible for the production of suprathermal ions and energetic neutral atoms. This paper reviews the observational evidence of turbulence in the distant SW and in the LISM, advances in modeling efforts, and open challenges.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available September 1, 2023
  5. Abstract Nonthermal, pickup ions (PUIs) represent an energetic component of the solar wind (SW). While a number of theoretical models have been proposed to describe the PUI flow, of major importance are in situ measurements providing us with the vital source of model validation. The Solar Wind Ion Composition Spectrometer (SWICS) instrument on board the Ulysses spacecraft was specifically designed for this purpose. Zhang et al. proposed a new, accurate method for the derivation of ion velocity distribution function in the SW frame on the basis of count rates collected by SWICS. We calculate the moments of these distribution functions for protons (H + ) and He + ions along the Ulysses trajectory for a period of 2 months including the Halloween 2003 solar storm. This gives us the time distributions of PUI density and temperature. We compare these with the results obtained earlier for the same interval of time, in which the ion spectra are converted to the SW frame using the narrow-beam approximation. Substantial differences are identified, which are of importance for the interpretation of PUI distributions in the 3D, time-dependent heliosphere. We also choose one of the shocks crossed by Ulysses during this time interval and analyzemore »the distribution functions and PUI bulk properties in front of and behind it. The results are compared with the test-particle calculations and diffusive shock acceleration theory.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 1, 2023
  6. Abstract Flux-rope-based magnetohydrodynamic modeling of coronal mass ejections (CMEs) is a promising tool for prediction of the CME arrival time and magnetic field at Earth. In this work, we introduce a constant-turn flux rope model and use it to simulate the 2012 July 12 16:48 CME in the inner heliosphere. We constrain the initial parameters of this CME using the graduated cylindrical shell (GCS) model and the reconnected flux in post-eruption arcades. We correctly reproduce all the magnetic field components of the CME at Earth, with an arrival time error of approximately 1 hr. We further estimate the average subjective uncertainties in the GCS fittings by comparing the GCS parameters of 56 CMEs reported in multiple studies and catalogs. We determined that the GCS estimates of the CME latitude, longitude, tilt, and speed have average uncertainties of 5.°74, 11.°23, 24.°71, and 11.4%, respectively. Using these, we have created 77 ensemble members for the 2012 July 12 CME. We found that 55% of our ensemble members correctly reproduce the sign of the magnetic field components at Earth. We also determined that the uncertainties in GCS fitting can widen the CME arrival time prediction window to about 12 hr for the 2012more »July 12 CME. On investigating the forecast accuracy introduced by the uncertainties in individual GCS parameters, we conclude that the half-angle and aspect ratio have little impact on the predicted magnetic field of the 2012 July 12 CME, whereas the uncertainties in longitude and tilt can introduce relatively large spread in the magnetic field predicted at Earth.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 1, 2023
  7. Abstract Large-scale disturbances generated by the Sun’s dynamics first propagate through the heliosphere, influence the heliosphere’s outer boundaries, and then traverse and modify the very local interstellar medium (VLISM). The existence of shocks in the VLISM was initially suggested by Voyager observations of the 2-3 kHz radio emissions in the heliosphere. A couple of decades later, both Voyagers crossed the definitive edge of our heliosphere and became the first ever spacecraft to sample interstellar space. Since Voyager 1’s entrance into the VLISM, it sampled electron plasma oscillation events that indirectly measure the medium’s density, increasing as it moves further away from the heliopause. Some of the observed electron oscillation events in the VLISM were associated with the local heliospheric shock waves. The observed VLISM shocks were very different than heliospheric shocks. They were very weak and broad, and the usual dissipation via wave-particle interactions could not explain their structure. Estimates of the dissipation associated with the collisionality show that collisions can determine the VLISM shock structure. According to theory and models, the existence of a bow shock or wave in front of our heliosphere is still an open question as there are no direct observations yet. This paper reviews the outstandingmore »observations recently made by the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft, and our current understanding of the properties of shocks/waves in the VLISM. We present some of the most exciting open questions related to the VLISM and shock waves that should be addressed in the future.« less
  8. 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 PUI 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 PUIsmore »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
  9. Abstract Interstellar neutrals (ISNs), pick-up ions (PUIs), and energetic neutral atoms (ENAs) are fundamental constituents of the heliosphere and its interaction with the neighboring interstellar medium. Here, we focus on selected aspects of present-day theory and modeling of these particles. In the last decades, progress in the understanding of the role of PUIs and ENAs for the global heliosphere and its interaction with very local interstellar medium is impressive and still growing. The increasing number of measurements allows for verification and continuing development of the theories and model attempts. We present an overview of various model descriptions of the heliosphere and the processes throughout it including the kinetic, fluid, and hybrid solutions. We also discuss topics in which interplay between theory, models, and interpretation of measurements reveals the complexity of the heliosphere and its understanding. They include model-based interpretation of the ISN, PUI, and ENA measurements conducted from the Earth’s vicinity. In addition, we describe selected processes beyond the Earth’s orbit up to the heliosphere boundary regions, where PUIs significantly contribute to the complex system of the global heliosphere and its interaction with the VLISM.
  10. Collisionless shocks efficiently convert the energy of the directed ion flow into their thermal energy. Ion distributions change drastically at the magnetized shock crossing. Even in the absence of collisions, ion dynamics within the shock front is non-integrable and gyrophase dependent. The downstream distributions just behind the shock are not gyrotropic but become so quickly due to the kinematic gyrophase mixing even in laminar shocks. During the gyrotropization all information about gyrophases is lost. Here we develop a mapping of upstream and downstream gyrotropic distributions in terms of scattering probabilities at the shock front. An analytical expression for the probability is derived for directly transmitted ions in the narrow shock approximation. The dependence of the probability on the magnetic compression and the cross-shock potential is demonstrated.