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Long-Term Tracking of Corotating Density Structures using Heliospheric Imaging View all abstracts by submitter

Illya Plotnikov   Submitted: 2016-06-10 03:00

The systematic monitoring of the solar wind in high-cadence and high-resolution heliospheric images taken by the Solar-Terrestrial Relation Observatory (STEREO) spacecraft permits the study of the spatial and temporal evolution of variable solar wind flows from the Sun out to 1 AU, and beyond. As part of the EU Framework 7 (FP7) Heliospheric Cataloguing, Analysis and Techniques Service (HELCATS) project, we have generated a catalogue listing the properties of 190 corotating structures well-observed in images taken by the Heliospheric Imager (HI) instruments on-board STEREO-A (ST-A). Based on this catalogue, we present here one of very few long-term analyses of solar wind structures advected by the background solar wind. We concentrate on the subset of plasma density structures clearly identified inside corotating structures. This analysis confirms that most of the corotating density structures detected by the heliospheric imagers comprises a series of density inhomogeneities advected by the slow solar wind that eventually become entrained by stream interaction regions. We have derived the spatial-temporal evolution of each of these corotating density structures by using a well-established fitting technique. The mean radial propagation speed of the corotating structures is found to be 311 ± 31 km s-1. Such a low mean value corresponds to the terminal speed of the slow solar wind rather than the speed of stream interfaces, which is typically intermediate between the slow and fast solar wind speeds (~400 km s-1). Using our fitting technique, we predicted the arrival time of each corotating density structure at different probes in the inner heliosphere. We find that our derived speeds are systematically lower by ~100 km s-1 than those measured in situ at the predicted impact times. Moreover, for cases when a stream interaction region is clearly detected in situ at the estimated impact time, we find that our derived speeds are lower than the speed of the stream interface measured in situ by an average of 55 km s-1 at ST-A and 84 km s-1 at STEREO-B (ST-B). We show that the speeds of the corotating density structures derived using our fitting technique track well the long-term variation of the radial speed of the slow solar wind during solar minimum years (2007-2008). Furthermore, we demonstrate that these features originate near the coronal neutral line that eventually becomes the heliospheric current sheet.

Authors: I. Plotnikov, A.P. Rouilllard, J.A. Davies, V. Bothmer, J.P. Eastwood, P. Gallagher, R.A. Harrison, E. Kilpua, C. Möstl, C.H. Perry, L. Rodriguez, B. Lavraud, V. Génot, R.F. Pinto, E. Sanchez-Diaz
Projects: STEREO

Publication Status: Accepted for publication in Solar Physics
Last Modified: 2016-06-10 15:24
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