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Title: Heliospheric structure. The bow wave and the hydrogen wall

Abstract

Some recent IBEX observations indicate that the local interstellar medium (LISM) flow speed is less than previously thought (23.2 km s -1 rather than 26 km s -1). Reasonable LISM plasma parameters indicate that the LISM flow may be either marginally super-fast magnetosonic or sub-fast magnetosonic. This raises two challenging questions: (1) Can a LISM model that is barely super-fast or sub-fast magnetosonic account for Lyα observations that rely critically on the additional absorption provided by the hydrogen wall (H-wall)? and (2) If the LISM flow is weakly super-fast magnetosonic, does the transition assume the form of a traditional shock or does neutral hydrogen (H) mediate shock dissipation and hence structure through charge exchange? Both questions are addressed using three three-dimensional self-consistently coupled magnetohydrodynamic plasma—kinetic H models with different LISM magnetic field strengths (2, 3, and 4 μG) as well as plasma and neutral H number densities. The 2 and 3 μG models are fast magnetosonic far upwind of the heliopause whereas the 4 μG model is fully subsonic. The 2 μG model admits a broad (~50-75 AU) bow-shock-like structure. The 3 μG model has a smooth super-fast-sub-fast magnetosonic transition that resembles a very broad, ~200 AU thick, bow wave.more » A theoretical analysis shows that the transition from a super-fast to a sub-fast magnetosonic downstream state is due to the charge exchange of fast neutral H and hot neutral H created in the supersonic solar wind and hot inner heliosheath, respectively. For both the 2 μG and the 3 μG models, the super-fast magnetosonic LISM flow passes through a critical point located where the fast magnetosonic Mach number M = 1 and Qe = γ/(γ - 1)UQm , where Qe and Qm are the plasma energy and momentum source terms due to charge exchange, U is the LISM flow speed, and γ is the plasma adiabatic index. Because the Mach number is only barely super-fast magnetosonic in the 3 μG case, the hot and fast neutral H can completely mediate the transition and impose a charge exchange length scale on the structure, making the solar-wind-LISM interaction effectively bow-shock-free. The charge exchange of fast and hot heliospheric neutral H therefore provides a primary dissipation mechanism at the weak heliospheric bow shock, in some cases effectively creating a one-shock heliosphere (i.e., a heliospheric termination shock only). Both super-fast magnetosonic models produce a sizeable H-wall. We also found that (1) a sub-fast magnetosonic LISM flow cannot model the observed Lyα absorption profiles along the four sightlines considered (α Cen, 36 Oph, DK UMa, and χ1 Ori—upwind, sidewind, and downwind respectively); (2) both the super-fast magnetosonic models can account for the Lyα observations, with possibly the bow-shock-free 3 μG model being slightly favored. We conclude with the tantalizing possibility that IBEX may have discovered a class of interstellar shocks mediated by neutral H, though this is subject to further modeling and comparison against further lines of sight.« less

Authors:
 [1];  [1];  [2];  [1];  [3];  [4]
  1. Univ. of Alabama, Huntsville, AL (United States). Center for Space Plasma and Aeronomic Research (CSPAR) and Physics Dept.
  2. Naval Research Lab. (NRL), Washington, DC (United States)
  3. Univ. of Alabama, Huntsville, AL (United States). Center for Space Plasma and Aeronomic Research (CSPAR)
  4. Southwest Research Inst. (SwRI), San Antonio, TX (United States); Univ. of Texas, San Antonio, TX (United States). Physics Dept.
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
Univ. of Alabama, Huntsville, AL (United States)
Sponsoring Org.:
USDOE Office of Science (SC), Fusion Energy Sciences (FES)
OSTI Identifier:
1325990
Grant/Contract Number:  
SC0008334
Resource Type:
Journal Article: Accepted Manuscript
Journal Name:
Astrophysical Journal
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Volume: 763; Journal Issue: 1; Journal ID: ISSN 0004-637X
Publisher:
Institute of Physics (IOP)
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
79 ASTRONOMY AND ASTROPHYSICS; interplanetary medium; ISM: magnetic fields; local interstellar matter; plasmas; shock waves; solar wind; sun: heliosphere

Citation Formats

Zank, G. P., Heerikhuisen, J., Wood, B. E., Pogorelov, N. V., Zirnstein, E., and McComas, D. J. Heliospheric structure. The bow wave and the hydrogen wall. United States: N. p., 2012. Web. doi:10.1088/0004-637X/763/1/20.
Zank, G. P., Heerikhuisen, J., Wood, B. E., Pogorelov, N. V., Zirnstein, E., & McComas, D. J. Heliospheric structure. The bow wave and the hydrogen wall. United States. doi:10.1088/0004-637X/763/1/20.
Zank, G. P., Heerikhuisen, J., Wood, B. E., Pogorelov, N. V., Zirnstein, E., and McComas, D. J. Fri . "Heliospheric structure. The bow wave and the hydrogen wall". United States. doi:10.1088/0004-637X/763/1/20. https://www.osti.gov/servlets/purl/1325990.
@article{osti_1325990,
title = {Heliospheric structure. The bow wave and the hydrogen wall},
author = {Zank, G. P. and Heerikhuisen, J. and Wood, B. E. and Pogorelov, N. V. and Zirnstein, E. and McComas, D. J.},
abstractNote = {Some recent IBEX observations indicate that the local interstellar medium (LISM) flow speed is less than previously thought (23.2 km s-1 rather than 26 km s-1). Reasonable LISM plasma parameters indicate that the LISM flow may be either marginally super-fast magnetosonic or sub-fast magnetosonic. This raises two challenging questions: (1) Can a LISM model that is barely super-fast or sub-fast magnetosonic account for Lyα observations that rely critically on the additional absorption provided by the hydrogen wall (H-wall)? and (2) If the LISM flow is weakly super-fast magnetosonic, does the transition assume the form of a traditional shock or does neutral hydrogen (H) mediate shock dissipation and hence structure through charge exchange? Both questions are addressed using three three-dimensional self-consistently coupled magnetohydrodynamic plasma—kinetic H models with different LISM magnetic field strengths (2, 3, and 4 μG) as well as plasma and neutral H number densities. The 2 and 3 μG models are fast magnetosonic far upwind of the heliopause whereas the 4 μG model is fully subsonic. The 2 μG model admits a broad (~50-75 AU) bow-shock-like structure. The 3 μG model has a smooth super-fast-sub-fast magnetosonic transition that resembles a very broad, ~200 AU thick, bow wave. A theoretical analysis shows that the transition from a super-fast to a sub-fast magnetosonic downstream state is due to the charge exchange of fast neutral H and hot neutral H created in the supersonic solar wind and hot inner heliosheath, respectively. For both the 2 μG and the 3 μG models, the super-fast magnetosonic LISM flow passes through a critical point located where the fast magnetosonic Mach number M = 1 and Qe = γ/(γ - 1)UQm , where Qe and Qm are the plasma energy and momentum source terms due to charge exchange, U is the LISM flow speed, and γ is the plasma adiabatic index. Because the Mach number is only barely super-fast magnetosonic in the 3 μG case, the hot and fast neutral H can completely mediate the transition and impose a charge exchange length scale on the structure, making the solar-wind-LISM interaction effectively bow-shock-free. The charge exchange of fast and hot heliospheric neutral H therefore provides a primary dissipation mechanism at the weak heliospheric bow shock, in some cases effectively creating a one-shock heliosphere (i.e., a heliospheric termination shock only). Both super-fast magnetosonic models produce a sizeable H-wall. We also found that (1) a sub-fast magnetosonic LISM flow cannot model the observed Lyα absorption profiles along the four sightlines considered (α Cen, 36 Oph, DK UMa, and χ1 Ori—upwind, sidewind, and downwind respectively); (2) both the super-fast magnetosonic models can account for the Lyα observations, with possibly the bow-shock-free 3 μG model being slightly favored. We conclude with the tantalizing possibility that IBEX may have discovered a class of interstellar shocks mediated by neutral H, though this is subject to further modeling and comparison against further lines of sight.},
doi = {10.1088/0004-637X/763/1/20},
journal = {Astrophysical Journal},
issn = {0004-637X},
number = 1,
volume = 763,
place = {United States},
year = {2012},
month = {12}
}

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PICK-UP IONS IN THE OUTER HELIOSHEATH: A POSSIBLE MECHANISM FOR THE INTERSTELLAR BOUNDARY EXplorer RIBBON
journal, December 2009


Interaction of the solar wind with the neutral component of the interstellar gas
journal, October 1972


Interaction of the solar wind with interstellar neutral hydrogen: Three-fluid model
journal, January 1986


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journal, November 2009

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Weaker solar wind from the polar coronal holes and the whole Sun
journal, January 2008

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Interaction of a nonuniform solar wind with the local interstellar medium
journal, August 1996

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Interaction of a nonuniform solar wind with the local interstellar medium: 2. A two-fluid model
journal, September 1997

  • Pauls, H. L.; Zank, G. P.
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Interaction of the solar wind with the local interstellar medium
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INTERSTELLAR BOUNDARY EXPLORER MEASUREMENTS AND MAGNETIC FIELD IN THE VICINITY OF THE HELIOPAUSE
journal, November 2011

  • Pogorelov, Nikolai V.; Heerikhuisen, Jacob; Zank, Gary P.
  • The Astrophysical Journal, Vol. 742, Issue 2
  • DOI: 10.1088/0004-637X/742/2/104

Radial evolution of the solar wind from IMP 8 to Voyager 2
journal, February 1995

  • Richardson, John D.; Paularena, Karolen I.; Lazarus, Alan J.
  • Geophysical Research Letters, Vol. 22, Issue 4
  • DOI: 10.1029/94GL03273

SEPARATION OF THE INTERSTELLAR BOUNDARY EXPLORER RIBBON FROM GLOBALLY DISTRIBUTED ENERGETIC NEUTRAL ATOM FLUX
journal, March 2011


Effect of magnetic field geometry on the wave signature of the pickup of interstellar neutrals
journal, January 1994

  • Williams, L. L.; Zank, G. P.
  • Journal of Geophysical Research, Vol. 99, Issue A10
  • DOI: 10.1029/94JA01657

Microstructure of the Heliospheric Termination Shock: Implications for Energetic Neutral atom Observations
journal, December 2009


The dynamical heliosphere
journal, January 2003


Interstellar pickup ions and quasi-perpendicular shocks: Implications for the termination shock and interplanetary shocks
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  • Zank, G. P.; Pauls, H. L.; Cairns, I. H.
  • Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics, Vol. 101, Issue A1
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Interaction of the solar wind with the local interstellar medium: A multifluid approach
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