Articles | Volume 21, issue 6
Special issue:
30 Jun 2003
 | 30 Jun 2003

The global heliospheric magnetic field polarity distribution as seen at Ulysses

G. H. Jones and A. Balogh

Abstract. The Ulysses spacecraft is in a near-polar solar orbit with a period of 6.2 years. The heliospheric magnetic field polarity detected by Ulysses from its 1992 Jupiter encounter to the current time is presented, following ballistic mapping of the polarity information to the solar wind source surface, at approximately 2.5 solar radii. The spacecraft’s first foray to polar latitudes and first rapid heliolatitude scan occurred in 1994–1995, near a minimum in solar activity. The heliospheric current sheet during this period was confined to low heliolatitudes. In 2000–2001, Ulysses returned in situ data from the same region of its orbit as in 1994–1995, but near to the maximum in solar activity. Unlike at solar minimum, heliospheric current sheet crossings were detected at the spacecraft over a wide heliolatitude range, which is consistent with the reversal of the solar magnetic dipole occurring during solar maximum. Despite complexity in the solar wind parameters during the latest fast latitude scan (McComas et al., 2002), the underlying magnetic field structure appears consistent with a simple dipole inclined at a large angle to the solar rotational axis. The most recent data show the heliospheric current sheet returning to lower heliolatitudes, indicating that the dipole and rotational axes are realigning, with the Sun’s magnetic polarity having reversed.

Key words. Interplanetary physics (interplanetary magnetic fields; sources of the solar wind) – Solar physics, astrophysics and astronomy (magnetic fields)