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On the Generation and Evolution of Switchbacks and the Morphology of the Alfv\ enic Transition: Low Mach-number Boundary Layers

AuthorLiu, Ying; Ran, Hao; Hu, Huidong; Bale, Stuart;
KeywordsParker Data Used; Solar wind; Solar magnetic fields; interplanetary turbulence; Solar Coronal Waves; Solar coronal holes; 1534; 1503; 830; 1995; 1484; Astrophysics - Solar and Stellar Astrophysics; Physics - Plasma Physics; Physics - Space Physics
AbstractWe investigate the generation and evolution of switchbacks (SBs), the nature of the sub-Alfv\ enic wind observed by the Parker Solar Probe (PSP), and the morphology of the Alfv\ enic transition, all of which are key issues in solar wind research. First we highlight a special structure in the pristine solar wind, termed a low Mach-number boundary layer (LMBL). An increased Alfv\ en radius and suppressed SBs are observed within an LMBL. A probable source on the Sun for an LMBL is the peripheral region inside a coronal hole with rapidly diverging open fields. The sub-Alfv\ enic wind detected by PSP is an LMBL flow by nature. The similar origin and similar properties of the sub- Alfv\ enic intervals favor a wrinkled surface for the morphology of the Alfv\ enic transition. We find that a larger deflection angle tends to be associated with a higher Alfv\ en Mach number. The magnetic deflections have an origin well below the Alfv\ en critical point, and deflection angles larger than 90\textdegree seem to occur only when M $_A$ \ensuremath\gtrsim 2. The velocity enhancement in units of the local Alfv\ en speed generally increases with the deflection angle, which is explained by a simple model. A nonlinearly evolved, saturated state is revealed for SBs, where the local Alfv\ en speed is roughly an upper bound for the velocity enhancement. In the context of these results, the most promising theory on the origin of SBs is the model of expanding waves and turbulence, and the patchy distribution of SBs is attributed to modulation by reductions in the Alfv\ en Mach number. Finally, a picture of the generation and evolution of SBs is created based on the results.
Year of Publication2023
Number of Pages116
Date Publishedfeb