Dynamical small-scale magnetic islands as a source of local acceleration of particles in the solar wind

Olga Khabarova, Gary Zank, Gang Li, Jakobus le Roux, Gary Webb, Olga Malandraki, Valentina Zharkova

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14 Citations (Scopus)
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Abstract

We present observations of energetic particle flux increases up to 1 MeV at 1 AU, which cannot be associated with ordinary mechanisms of particle acceleration, such as acceleration at shocks or at the Sun. Such unusual energetic particle events very likely have a local origin. Multi-spacecraft observations show that numerous cases of energetic particle flux enhancements and spikes correspond to passages of spacecraft through areas filled with magnetic islands with a typical width similar to 0.01-0.001AU that experience dynamical merging or/and contraction. The presence of magnetic islands inside magnetically confined cavities in the solar wind may lead to local particle energization, especially in the case when the particles have already been pre-accelerated to keV energies, for example, at shocks or due to magnetic reconnection at the heliospheric current sheet. We consider different magnetic configurations that provide favourable conditions for both the appearance of small-scale magnetic islands and their confinement.

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