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On the properties of Alfv\ enic switchbacks in the expanding solar wind: Three-dimensional numerical simulations

AuthorJohnston, Zade; Squire, Jonathan; Mallet, Alfred; Meyrand, Romain;
KeywordsParker Data Used; Astrophysics - Solar and Stellar Astrophysics; Physics - Plasma Physics
AbstractSwitchbacks-abrupt reversals of the magnetic field within the solar wind-have been ubiquitously observed by Parker Solar Probe (PSP). Their origin, whether from processes near the solar surface or within the solar wind itself, remains under debate and likely has key implications for solar wind heating and acceleration. Here, using three-dimensional expanding box simulations, we examine the properties of switchbacks arising from the evolution of outwards-propagating Alfv\ en waves in the expanding solar wind in detail. Our goal is to provide testable predictions that can be used to differentiate between properties arising from solar surface processes and those from the in situ evolution of Alfv\ en waves in switchback observations by PSP. We show how the inclusion of the Parker spiral causes magnetic field deflections within switchbacks to become asymmetric, preferentially deflecting in the plane of the Parker spiral and rotating in one direction toward the radial component of the mean field. The direction of the peak of the magnetic field distribution is also shown to be different from the mean field direction due to its highly skewed nature. Compressible properties of switchbacks are also explored, with magnetic-field-strength and density fluctuations being either correlated or anticorrelated depending on the value of \ensuremath\beta, agreeing with predictions from theory. We also measure dropouts in magnetic-field strength and density spikes at the boundaries of these synthetic switchbacks, both of which have been observed by PSP. The agreement of these properties with observations provides further support for the Alfv\ en wave model of switchbacks.
Year of Publication2022
JournalPhysics of Plasmas
Number of Pages072902
Date Publishedjul