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Structure and fluctuations of a slow ICME sheath observed at 0.5 au by the Parker Solar Probe

AuthorKilpua, E.~K.~J.; Good, S.~W.; Ala-Lahti, M.; Osmane, A.; Pal, S.; Soljento, J.~E.; Zhao, L.~L.; Bale, S.;
KeywordsParker Data Used; Solar wind; Sun: coronal mass ejections (CMEs); shock waves; turbulence; Physics - Space Physics; Astrophysics - Solar and Stellar Astrophysics; Physics - Plasma Physics
AbstractContext. Sheath regions ahead of interplanetary coronal mass ejections (ICMEs) are compressed and turbulent global heliospheric structures. Their global and fine-scale structure are outstanding research problems, and only a few studies have been conducted on this topic closer to the Sun than 1 au. Comprehensive knowledge of the sheath structure and embedded fluctuations and of their evolution in interplanetary space is important for understanding their geoeffectiveness, their role in accelerating charged particles to high energies, the interaction of ICMEs with the ambient wind, and the transport of energy between boundaries. \ Aims: Our key aims are to investigate in detail the overall structure, as well as nature (stochastic, chaotic, or periodic) and origin, of magnetic fluctuations within a sheath ahead of a slow ICME in the inner heliosphere. \ Methods: We used magnetic field and plasma observations from the Parker Solar Probe (PSP) during a sheath region observed at \ensuremath\sim0.5 au on March 15, 2019, ahead of a slow and slowly expanding streamer blow-out CME bracketed between a slower and faster stream. To examine the magnetohydrodynamic-scale turbulent properties, we present an analysis of the fluctuation amplitudes, magnetic compressibility of fluctuations, partial variance of increments (PVI), normalised cross helicity (\ensuremath\sigma$_c$), and normalised residual energy (\ensuremath\sigma$_r$). We also conducted a Jensen-Shannon permutation entropy and complexity analysis. \ Results: The investigated sheath consisted of slower and faster flows that were separated by a brief (\ensuremath\sim15 min) change in the magnetic sector bounded by current sheet crossings and a velocity shear zone. The fluctuation amplitudes and frequency of high PVI values were larger and higher throughout the sheath than in the upstream wind and had dominantly negative \ensuremath\sigma$_r$ and strongly positive \ensuremath\sigma$_c$. The velocity shear region marked a strong increase in temperature and specific entropy, and the following faster flow had large local patches of positive \ensuremath\sigma$_r$ as well as larger fluctuation amplitudes and higher PVI values, in particular at smaller timescales. Fluctuations in the preceding wind and in the sheath were found to be stochastic. However, sheath fluctuations showed lower entropy and higher complexity, with entropy showing a reducing and complexity an increasing trend with increasing time lag. \ Conclusions: The two-part sheath structure was likely a result of a warp in the heliospheric current sheet (HCS) that was swept up and compressed into the sheath. The driving ejecta accelerated and heated the wind at the back of the sheath, which then interacted with the slower wind ahead of the HCS warp. This also caused some distinct differences in fluctuation properties across the sheath. Sheaths of slow ICMEs originating as streamer blow-outs can thus have complex structure where fluctuation properties are not just downstream shock properties, but are generated within the sheath. At short timescales, fluctuations feature fully developed and imbalanced MHD turbulence, while at longer scales, fluctuations are increasingly dominated by intermittent coherent and ordered structures.
Year of Publication2022
Number of PagesA108
Date Publishedjul