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On the Role of Solar Wind Expansion as a Source of Whistler Waves: Scattering of Suprathermal Electrons and Heat Flux Regulation in the Inner Heliosphere

AuthorMicera, A.; Zhukov, A.~N.; opez, R.~A.; Boella, E.; Tenerani, A.; Velli, M.; Lapenta, G.; Innocenti, M.~E.;
KeywordsSolar wind; Plasma astrophysics; Space plasmas; 1534; 1261; 1544; Astrophysics - Solar and Stellar Astrophysics; Physics - Plasma Physics; Physics - Space Physics; Parker Data Used
AbstractThe role of solar wind expansion in generating whistler waves is investigated using the EB-iPic3D code, which models solar wind expansion self-consistently within a fully kinetic semi-implicit approach. The simulation is initialized with an electron velocity distribution function modeled after observations of the Parker Solar Probe during its first perihelion at 0.166 au, consisting of a dense core and an antisunward strahl. This distribution function is initially stable with respect to kinetic instabilities. Expansion drives the solar wind into successive regimes where whistler heat flux instabilities are triggered. These instabilities produce sunward whistler waves initially characterized by predominantly oblique propagation with respect to the interplanetary magnetic field. The excited waves interact with the electrons via resonant scattering processes. As a consequence, the strahl pitch angle distribution broadens and its drift velocity reduces. The strahl electrons are scattered in the direction perpendicular to the magnetic field, and an electron halo is formed. At a later stage, resonant electron firehose instability is triggered and further affects the electron temperature anisotropy as the solar wind expands. Wave-particle interaction processes are accompanied by a substantial reduction of the solar wind heat flux. The simulated whistler waves are in qualitative agreement with observations in terms of wave frequencies, amplitudes, and propagation angles. Our work proposes an explanation for the observations of oblique and parallel whistler waves in the solar wind. We conclude that solar wind expansion has to be factored in when trying to explain kinetic processes at different heliocentric distances.
Year of Publication2021
Number of Pages42
Date Publishedsep