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Signatures of coronal loop opening via interchange reconnection in the slow solar wind at 1 AU

Owens, M., Lockwood, M., Macneil, A. and Stansby, D. (2020) Signatures of coronal loop opening via interchange reconnection in the slow solar wind at 1 AU. Solar Physics, 295 (3). 37. ISSN 0038-0938

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1007/s11207-020-01601-7

Abstract/Summary

The opening of closed magnetic loops via reconnection with open solar flux, so called “interchange reconnection”, is invoked in a number of models of slow solar wind release. In the heliosphere, this is expected to result in local switchbacks or inversions in heliospheric magnetic flux (HMF). When observed at 1 AU, inverted HMF has previously been shown to exhibit high ion charge states, suggestive of hot coronal loops, and to map to the locations of coronal magnetic separatrices. However, simulations show that inverted HMF produced directly by reconnection in the low corona is unlikely to survive to 1 AU without the amplification by solar wind speed shear. By considering the surrounding solar wind, we show that inverted HMF is preferably associated with regions of solar wind shear at 1 AU. Compared with the surrounding solar wind, inverted HMF intervals have lower magnetic field intensity and show intermediate speed and density values between the faster, more tenuous wind ahead and the slower, denser wind behind. There is no coherent signature in iron charge states, but oxygen and carbon charge states within the inverted HMF are in agreement with the higher values in the slow wind behind. Conversely, the iron-to-oxygen abundance ratio is in better agreement with the lower values in the solar wind ahead, while the alpha-to-proton abundance ratio shows no variation. One possible explanation for these observations is that the interchange reconnection (and subsequent solar wind shear) that is responsible for generation of inverted HMF involves very small, quiet-Sun loops of approximately photospheric composition, which are impulsively heated in the low corona, rather than large-scale active region loops with enhanced first-ionisation potential elements. Whether signatures of such small loops could be detected in situ at 1 AU still remains to be determined.

Item Type:Article
Refereed:Yes
Divisions:Faculty of Science > School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences > Department of Meteorology
ID Code:89333
Publisher:Springer

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