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Annales Geophysicae An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 20, issue 10
Ann. Geophys., 20, 1509–1518, 2002
https://doi.org/10.5194/angeo-20-1509-2002
© Author(s) 2002. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Ann. Geophys., 20, 1509–1518, 2002
https://doi.org/10.5194/angeo-20-1509-2002
© Author(s) 2002. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

  31 Oct 2002

31 Oct 2002

Solar wind heating by an embedded quasi-isothermal pick-up ion fluid

H. J. Fahr H. J. Fahr
  • Institut für Astrophysik und Extraterrestrische Forschung der Universität Bonn Auf dem Hügel 71, D-53121 Bonn, Germany
  • Correspondence to: H. J. Fahr (hfahr@astro.uni-bonn.de)

Abstract. It is well known that the solar wind plasma consists of primary ions of solar coronal origin and secondary ions of interstellar origin. Interstellar H-atoms penetrate into the inner heliosphere and when ionized there are converted into secondary ions. These are implanted into the magnetized solar wind flow and are essentially enforced to co-move with this flow. By nonlinear interactions with wind-entrained Alfvén waves the latter are processed in the co-moving velocity space. This pick-up process, however, also causes actions back upon the original solar wind flow, leading to a deceleration, as well as a heating of the solar wind plasma. The resulting deceleration is not only due to the loading effect, but also due to the action of the pressure gradient. To calculate the latter, it is important to take into account the stochastic acceleration that suffers at their convection out of the inner heliosphere by the quasi-linear interactions with MHD turbulences. Only then can the presently reported VOYAGER observations of solar wind decelerations and heatings in the outer heliosphere be understood in terms of the current, most likely values of interstellar gas parameters. In a consistent view of the thermodynamics of the solar wind plasma, which is composed of secondary ions and solar wind protons, we also derive that the latter are globally heated at their motion to larger solar distances. The arising heat transfer is due to the action of suprathermal ions which drive MHD waves that are partially absorbed by solar wind protons and thereby establish their observed quasi-polytropy. We obtain a quantitative expression for the solar wind proton pressure as a function of solar distance. This expression clearly shows the change from an adiabatic to a quasi-polytropic behaviour with a decreasing polytropic index at increasing distances, as has been observed by the VOYAGERS. This also allows one to calculate the average percentage of the intitial energy fed into the thermal proton energy. In a first-order evaluation of this expression we can estimate that under stationary flow conditions about 10% of the initial injection energy is eventually transfered to solar wind protons, independent of the actual injection rate. 

Key words. Interplanetary physics (energetic particles; interstellar gas; solar wind plasma)

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