Articles | Volume 18, issue 8
31 Aug 2000
31 Aug 2000

Latitudinal distribution of the solar wind properties in the low- and high-pressure regimes: Wind observations

C. Lacombe, C. Salem, A. Mangeney, J.-L. Steinberg, M. Maksimovic, and J. M. Bosqued

Abstract. The solar wind properties depend on λ, the heliomagnetic latitude with respect to the heliospheric current sheet (HCS), more than on the heliographic latitude. We analyse the wind properties observed by Wind at 1 AU during about 2.5 solar rotations in 1995, a period close to the last minimum of solar activity. To determine λ, we use a model of the HCS which we fit to the magnetic sector boundary crossings observed by Wind. We find that the solar wind properties mainly depend on the modulus |λ|. But they also depend on a local parameter, the total pressure (magnetic pressure plus electron and proton thermal pressure). Furthermore, whatever the total pressure, we observe that the plasma properties also depend on the time: the latitudinal gradients of the wind speed and of the proton temperature are not the same before and after the closest HCS crossing. This is a consequence of the dynamical stream interactions. In the low pressure wind, at low |λ|, we find a clear maximum of the density, a clear minimum of the wind speed and of the proton temperature, a weak minimum of the average magnetic field strength, a weak maximum of the average thermal pressure, and a weak maximum of the average β factor. This overdense sheet is embedded in a density halo. The latitudinal thickness is about 5° for the overdense sheet, and 20° for the density halo. The HCS is thus wrapped in an overdense sheet surrounded by a halo, even in the non-compressed solar wind. In the high-pressure wind, the plasma properties are less well ordered as functions of the latitude than in the low-pressure wind; the minimum of the average speed is seen before the HCS crossing. The latitudinal thickness of the high-pressure region is about 20°. Our observations are qualitatively consistent with the numerical model of Pizzo for the deformation of the heliospheric current sheet and plasma sheet.

Key words: Interplanetary physics (solar wind plasma)