Alfvénic fluctuations in the expanding solar wind: Formation and radial evolution of spherical polarization

Lorenzo Matteini*, Anna Tenerani, Simone Landi, Andrea Verdini, Marco Velli, Petr Hellinger, Luca Franci, Timothy S. Horbury, Emanuele Papini, Julia Stawarz

*Corresponding author for this work

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We investigate properties of large-scale solar wind Alfvénic fluctuations and their evolution during radial expansion. We assume a strictly radial background magnetic field B∥R, and we use two-dimensional hybrid (fluid electrons, kinetic ions) simulations of balanced Alfvénic turbulence in the plane orthogonal to B; the simulated plasma evolves in a system comoving with the solar wind (i.e., in the expanding box approximation). Despite some model limitations, simulations exhibit important properties observed in the solar wind plasma: Magnetic field fluctuations evolve toward a state with low-amplitude variations in the amplitude B=|B| and tend to a spherical polarization. This is achieved in the plasma by spontaneously generating field aligned, radial fluctuations that suppress local variations of B, maintaining B∼ const. spatially in the plasma. We show that within the constraint of spherical polarization, variations in the radial component of the magnetic field, BR lead to a simple relation between δBR and δB=|δB| as δBR∼δB2/(2B), which correctly describes the observed evolution of the rms of radial fluctuations in the solar wind. During expansion, the background magnetic field amplitude decreases faster than that of fluctuations so that their the relative amplitude increases. In the regime of strong fluctuations, δB∼B, this causes local magnetic field reversals, consistent with solar wind switchbacks.
Original languageEnglish
Article number032901
Number of pages18
JournalPhysics of Plasmas
Issue number3
Early online date5 Mar 2024
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2024

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