Constraining Suprathermal Electron Evolution in a Parker Spiral Field with Cassini Observations

G. A. Graham*, M. R. Bakrania, I. J. Rae, C. J. Owen, A. P. Walsh, M. J. Owens

*Corresponding author for this work

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Suprathermal electrons in the solar wind consist of the “halo,” present at all pitch angles, and the “strahl” which is a field-aligned, beam-like population. Examining the heliospheric evolution of strahl beams is key to understanding the in-transit processing of solar wind suprathermal electrons, in particular, to identify electron scattering mechanisms and to establish the origin of the halo population. Not only does this have significant implications with regard to the kinetic processes occurring within the solar wind but also its thermodynamic evolution, as the suprathermal electrons carry the majority of the solar wind heat flux. In this investigation, an established model for suprathermal electron evolution in a Parker spiral interplanetary magnetic field is adapted from its original use. The model is constrained using solar wind strahl observed by the Cassini mission on its interplanetary journey to Saturn. The effects of large scale IMF geometry due to different solar wind velocities and application of different electron scattering factors are examined. It is found that slow solar wind speeds provide the closest match to the strahl width observations, both in terms of radial distance and electron energy trends, and that predominantly slower solar wind speeds were therefore likely observed by the Cassini mission en-route to Saturn. It is necessary to include a strahl scattering factor which increases with electron energy in order to match observations, indicating that the strahl scattering mechanism must have an inherent energy dependence.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2020JA028669
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics
Issue number6
Early online date9 Jun 2021
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021


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