Magnetic discontinuities in the near-earth solar wind: evidence of in-transit turbulence or remnants of coronal structure?
Owens, M. J., Wicks, R. T. and Horbury, T. S. (2011) Magnetic discontinuities in the near-earth solar wind: evidence of in-transit turbulence or remnants of coronal structure? Solar Physics, 269 (2). pp. 411-420. ISSN 0038-0938
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To link to this article DOI: 10.1007/s11207-010-9695-0
Fluctuations in the solar wind plasma and magnetic field are well described by the sum of two power law distributions. It has been postulated that these distributions are the result of two independent processes: turbulence, which contributes mainly to the smaller fluctuations, and crossing the boundaries of flux tubes of coronal origin, which dominates the larger variations. In this study we explore the correspondence between changes in the magnetic field with changes in other solar wind properties. Changes in density and temperature may result from either turbulence or coronal structures, whereas changes in composition, such as the alpha-to-proton ratio are unlikely to arise from in-transit effects. Observations spanning the entire ACE dataset are compared with a null hypothesis of no correlation between magnetic field discontinuities and changes in other solar wind parameters. Evidence for coronal structuring is weaker than for in-transit turbulence, with only ∼ 25% of large magnetic field discontinuities associated with a significant change in the alpha-to-proton ratio, compared to ∼ 40% for significant density and temperature changes. However, note that a lack of detectable alpha-to-proton signature is not sufficient to discount a structure as having a solar origin.