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Counter-streaming strahls and heat flux dropouts as possible signatures of local particle acceleration in the solar wind View all abstracts by submitter

Valentina Zharkova   Submitted: 2020-03-20 04:58

Suprathermal electrons with energies of ~70eV and above are observed at 1 AU as dispersionless halo electrons and magnetic field-aligned beams of strahls. For a long time, it has been thought that the both populations originate only from the solar corona, and the only active process impacting their properties in the solar wind is scattering. This view has consequently impacted interpretation of typical patterns of pitch-angle distributions (PADs) of suprathermal electrons. Meanwhile, recent observational studies supported by numerical simulations have shown that there is an unaccounted population of electrons accelerated to suprathermal energies at reconnecting current sheets (RCSs) and 3D dynamical plasmoids (or 2D magnetic islands (MIs)) directly in the heliosphere. We present multi-spacecraft observations of counterstreaming strahls and heat-flux dropouts in PADs within a region filled with plasmoids and RCSs unaffected by interplanetary shocks, comparing observed PAD features with those predicted by particle-in-cell simulations. We show typical PAD patterns determined by local acceleration of thermal-core electrons up to hundreds eV. Resulting PAD views depend on properties and topology of particular RCSs, MIs, and plasma/magnetic field parameters. Our study suggests that solar-wind-borne suprathermal electrons co-exist with those of solar origin. Therefore, some of heat flux dropout and bi- directional strahl events can be explained by local dynamical processes involving magnetic reconnection. Possible implications of the results for the interpretation of the actively-debated strahl/halo relative density decrease with heliocentric distance and puzzling features of suprathermal electrons observed at crossings of the heliospheric current sheet and cometary comas are also discussed.

Authors: O. Khabarova, V. Zharkova, Q. Xia, and O. E. Malandraki
Projects: Wind

Publication Status: Astrophysical Journal Letters, in press
Last Modified: 2020-04-04 11:49
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