Evolving Solar Wind Flow Properties of Magnetic Inversions Observed by Helios

Allan R Macneil*, Mathew J Owens, Robert T Wicks, Mike Lockwood

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
38 Downloads (Pure)


In its first encounter at solar distances as close as r = 0.16AU, Parker Solar Probe (PSP) observed numerous local reversals, or inversions, in the heliospheric magnetic field (HMF), which were accompanied by large spikes in solar wind speed. Both solar and in situ mechanisms have been suggested to explain the existence of HMF inversions in general. Previous work using Helios 1, covering 0.3–1AU, observed inverted HMF to become more common with increasing r, suggesting that some heliospheric driving process creates or amplifies inversions. This study expands upon these findings, by analysing inversion-associated changes in plasma properties for the same large data set, facilitated by observations of ‘strahl’ electrons to identify the unperturbed magnetic polarity. We find that many inversions exhibit anti-correlated field and velocity perturbations, and are thus characteristically Alfvénic, but many also depart strongly from this relationship over an apparent continuum of properties. Inversions depart further from the ‘ideal’ Alfvénic case with increasing r, as more energy is partitioned in the field, rather than the plasma, component of the perturbation. This departure is greatest for inversions with larger density and magnetic field strength changes, and characteristic slow solar wind properties. We find no evidence that inversions which stray further from ‘ideal’ Alfvénicity have different generation processes from those which are more Alfvénic. Instead, different inversion properties could be imprinted based on transport or formation within different solar wind streams.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberstaa3983
Pages (from-to)5379-5392
Number of pages14
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number4
Early online date31 Dec 2020
Publication statusPublished - 11 Mar 2021


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