Volume 613, May 2018
|Number of page(s)||7|
|Published online||01 June 2018|
Number density structures in the inner heliosphere
Department of Physics, Imperial College London,
London, SW7 2AZ, UK
Accepted: 11 March 2018
Aims. The origins and generation mechanisms of the slow solar wind are still unclear. Part of the slow solar wind is populated by number density structures, discrete patches of increased number density that are frozen in to and move with the bulk solar wind. In this paper we aimed to provide the first in-situ statistical study of number density structures in the inner heliosphere.
Methods. We reprocessed in-situ ion distribution functions measured by Helios in the inner heliosphere to provide a new reliable set of proton plasma moments for the entire mission. From this new data set we looked for number density structures measured within 0.5 AU of the Sun and studied their properties.
Results. We identified 140 discrete areas of enhanced number density. The structures occurred exclusively in the slow solar wind and spanned a wide range of length scales from 50 Mm to 2000 Mm, which includes smaller scales than have been previously observed. They were also consistently denser and hotter that the surrounding plasma, but had lower magnetic field strengths, and therefore remained in pressure balance.
Conclusions. Our observations show that these structures are present in the slow solar wind at a wide range of scales, some of which are too small to be detected by remote sensing instruments. These structures are rare, accounting for only 1% of the slow solar wind measured by Helios, and are not a significant contribution to the mass flux of the solar wind.
Key words: Sun: heliosphere / solar wind
© ESO 2018
Open Access article, published by EDP Sciences, under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0;), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
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