Composition of inner-source heavy pickup ions at 1 AU: SOHO/CELIAS/CTOF observations
Implications for the production mechanisms
Institut für Experimentelle und Angewandte Physik,
Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel,
Received: 10 October 2014
Accepted: 22 January 2015
Context. Pickup ions in the inner heliosphere mainly originate in two sources, one interstellar and one in the inner solar system. In contrast to the interstellar source that is comparatively well understood, the nature of the inner source has not been clearly identified. Former results obtained with the Solar Wind Ion Composition Spectrometer on-board the Ulysses spacecraft revealed that the composition of inner-source pickup ions is similar, but not equal, to the elemental solar-wind composition. These observations suffered from very low counting statistics of roughly one C+ count per day.
Aims. Because the composition of inner-source pickup ions could lead to identifying their origin, we used data from the Charge-Time-Of-Flight sensor on-board the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory. It offers a large geometry factor that results in about 100 C+ counts per day combined with an excellent mass-per-charge resolution. These features enable a precise determination of the inner-source heavy pickup ion composition at 1 AU. To address the production mechanisms of inner-source pickup ions, we set up a toy model based on the production scenario involving the passage of solar-wind ions through thin dust grains to explain the observed deviations of the inner-source PUI and the elemental solar-wind composition.
Methods. An in-flight calibration of the sensor allows identification of heavy pickup ions from pulse height analysis data by their mass-per-charge. A statistical analysis was performed to derive the inner-source heavy pickup ion relative abundances of N+, O+, Ne+, Mg+, Mg2+, and Si+ compared to C+.
Results. Our results for the inner-source pickup ion composition are in good agreement with previous studies and confirm the deviations from the solar-wind composition. The large geometry factor of the Charge-Time-of-Flight sensor even allowed the abundance ratios of the two most prominent pickup ions, C+ and O+, to be investigated at varying solar-wind speeds. We found that the O+/C+ ratio increases systematically with higher solar-wind speeds. This observation is an unprecedented feature characterising the production of inner-source pickup ions. Comparing our observations to the toy model results, we find that both the deviation from the solar-wind composition and the solar-wind-speed dependent O+/C+ ratio can be explained.
Key words: solar wind / Sun: heliosphere / Sun: abundances
© ESO, 2015