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Annales Geophysicae An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 23, issue 12
Ann. Geophys., 23, 3765–3773, 2005
https://doi.org/10.5194/angeo-23-3765-2005
© Author(s) 2005. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Ann. Geophys., 23, 3765–3773, 2005
https://doi.org/10.5194/angeo-23-3765-2005
© Author(s) 2005. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

  23 Dec 2005

23 Dec 2005

Rapid density fluctuations in the solar wind

P. J. Kellogg1 and T. S. Horbury2 P. J. Kellogg and T. S. Horbury
  • 1University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, 55455, USA
  • 2Imperial College, London, UK

Abstract. Electron density fluctuations (up to 2.5 Hz) in the solar wind have been studied, using the EFW experiment on the Cluster spacecraft, which measures density through measurements of the biased probe potentials relative to the spacecraft. The density fluctuation spectra obtained from the EFW probe potential variations are compared to earlier, OGO 5, measurements of ion density fluctuations and ISEE measurements of electron density fluctuations, and are consistent with them. The electric fields corresponding to the electron density fluctuations are extremely small compared with what would be obtained if the electron fluctuations were not cancelled out by nearly equal ion density fluctuations. This is consistent with the nature of ion acoustic waves. In agreement with ISEE work, the fluctuations are proportional to the ambient density. Correlation with magnetic fluctuations is weak, essentially nonexistent during part of the period studied. This might be expected as magnetic fluctuations are known to be nearly incompressible, but even the correlation with fluctuations in the magnitude of B is very small. However, many structures which apparently are pressure balance structures are found. Pressure balance structures are the nearly perpendicular propagation limit of ion acoustic waves.

As ion acoustic waves are strongly damped in plasmas like the solar wind at least if the plasma is taken as Maxwellian, it has always been a puzzle as to why they are found there. We speculate that these waves are created by mode conversion from magnetic fluctuations, and may represent part of the dissipation process for these.

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