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New Evidence on the Origin of Solar Wind Microstreams/Switchbacks

AuthorKumar, Pankaj; Karpen, Judith; Uritsky, Vadim; Deforest, Craig; Raouafi, Nour; DeVore, Richard; Antiochos, Spiro;
KeywordsParker Data Used; Fast solar wind; Plasma jets; Solar magnetic reconnection; 1872; 1263; 1504; Astrophysics - Solar and Stellar Astrophysics; Physics - Space Physics
AbstractMicrostreams are fluctuations in the solar wind speed and density associated with polarity-reversing folds in the magnetic field (also denoted switchbacks). Despite their long heritage, the origin of these microstreams/switchbacks remains poorly understood. For the first time, we investigated periodicities in microstreams during Parker Solar Probe (PSP) Encounter 10 to understand their origin. Our analysis was focused on the inbound corotation interval on 2021 November 19-21, while the spacecraft dove toward a small area within a coronal hole (CH). Solar Dynamics Observatory remote-sensing observations provide rich context for understanding the PSP in situ data. Extreme ultraviolet images from the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly reveal numerous recurrent jets occurring within the region that was magnetically connected to PSP during intervals that contained microstreams. The periods derived from the fluctuating radial velocities in the microstreams (approximately 3, 5, 10, and 20 minutes) are consistent with the periods measured in the emission intensity of the jetlets at the base of the CH plumes, as well as in larger coronal jets and in the plume fine structures. Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager magnetograms reveal the presence of myriad embedded bipoles, which are known sources of reconnection-driven jets on all scales. Simultaneous enhancements in the PSP proton flux and ionic ($^3$He, $^4$He, Fe, O) composition during the microstreams further support the connection with jetlets and jets. In keeping with prior observational and numerical studies of impulsive coronal activity, we conclude that quasiperiodic jets generated by interchange/breakout reconnection at CH bright points and plume bases are the most likely sources of the microstreams/switchbacks observed in the solar wind.
Year of Publication2023
Number of PagesL15
Date Publishedjul