Solar winds along curved magnetic field lines

Preprint English OPEN
Li, Bo ; Xia, Li-Dong ; Chen, Yao (2011)
  • Related identifiers: doi: 10.1051/0004-6361/201116668
  • Subject: Astrophysics - Solar and Stellar Astrophysics
    arxiv: Physics::Space Physics | Astrophysics::Solar and Stellar Astrophysics

Both remote-sensing measurements using the interplanetary scintillation (IPS) technique and in situ measurements by the Ulysses spacecraft show a bimodal structure for the solar wind at solar minimum conditions. At present what makes the fast wind fast and the slow wind slow still remains to be answered. While a robust empirical correlation exists between the coronal expansion rate $f_c$ of the flow tubes and the speeds $v$ measured in situ, further data analysis suggests that $v$ depends on more than just $f_c$. We examine whether the non-radial shape of field lines, which naturally accompanies any non-radial expansion, could be an additional geometrical factor. We solved the transport equations incorporating the heating due to turbulent Alfv\'en waves for an electron-proton solar wind along curved field lines given by an analytical magnetic field model, representative of a solar minimum corona. The field line shape is found to influence substantially the solar wind parameters, reducing the asymptotic speed by up to $\sim 130$ km s$^{-1}$, or by $\sim 28%$ in relative terms, compared with the case neglecting the field line curvature. This effect was interpreted in the general framework of energy addition in the solar wind: Relative to the straight case, the field line curvature enhances the effective energy deposition to the subsonic flow, resulting in a higher proton flux and a lower terminal proton speed. Our computations suggest that the field line curvature could be a geometrical factor which, in addition to the tube expansion, substantially influences the solar wind speed. Furthermore, at solar minima although the field line curvature unlikely affects the polar fast solar wind, it does help make the wind at low latitudes slow, thereby helping better reproduce the Ulysses measurements.
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