Revolutionizing Our Understanding of Particle Energization in Space Plasmas Using On-Board Wave-Particle Correlator Instrumentation

Gregory G. Howes*, Jaye L. Verniero, Davin E. Larson, Stuart D. Bale, Justin C. Kasper, Keith Goetz, Kristopher G. Klein, Phyllis L. Whittlesey, Roberto Livi, Ali Rahmati, Christopher H. K. Chen, Lynn B. Wilson, Benjamin L. Alterman, Robert T. Wicks

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
20 Downloads (Pure)


A leap forward in our understanding of particle energization in plasmas throughout the heliosphere is essential to answer longstanding questions in heliophysics, including the heating of the solar corona, acceleration of the solar wind, and energization of particles that lead to observable phenomena, such as the Earth’s aurora. The low densities and high temperatures of typical heliospheric environments lead to weakly collisional plasma conditions. Under these conditions, the energization of particles occurs primarily through collisionless interactions between the electromagnetic fields and the individual plasma particles with energies characteristic of a particular interaction. To understand how the plasma heating and particle acceleration impacts the macroscopic evolution of the heliosphere, impacting phenomena such as extreme space weather, it is critical to understand these collisionless wave-particle interactions on the characteristic ion and electron kinetic timescales. Such understanding requires high-cadence measurements of both the electromagnetic fields and the three-dimensional particle velocity distributions. Although existing instrument technology enables these measurements, a major challenge to maximize the scientific return from these measurements is the limited amount of data that can be transmitted to the ground due to telemetry constraints. A valuable, but underutilized, approach to overcome this limitation is to compute on-board correlations of the maximum-cadence field and particle measurements to improve the sampling time by several orders of magnitude. Here we review the fundamentals of the innovative field-particle correlation technique, present a formulation of the technique that can be implemented as an on-board wave-particle correlator, and estimate results that can be achieved with existing instrumental capabilities for particle velocity distribution measurements.
Original languageEnglish
Article number912868
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
JournalFrontiers in Astronomy and Space Sciences
Early online date29 Jun 2022
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jun 2022


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