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A statistical evaluation of ballistic backmapping for the slow solar wind: The interplay of solar wind acceleration and corotation

AuthorMacneil, Allan; Owens, Mathew; Finley, Adam; Matt, Sean;
KeywordsParker Data Used; Sun: solar wind; Sun: heliosphere
AbstractMapping solar wind plasma back to its source is often achieved using the two-step ballistic backmapping method. Solar wind observations are mapped through the heliosphere to the edge of a PFSS model, by assuming a constant speed, radial, plasma flow. Tracing field lines through the model gives the source location at 1 R$_\ensuremath\odot$ The heliospheric mapping component hinges upon the argument that two known sources of error, stemming from solar wind acceleration and non-radial flow, effectively cancel. This assumption has not been tested statistically. In this study, we evaluate the heliospheric portion of two-step backmapping, in addition to mapping using models with explicit radial acceleration, and azimuthal velocity, v$_\ensuremath\varphi$, derived from angular momentum conservation. We estimate longitudinal mapping offsets, \ensuremath\Delta\ensuremath\varphi, between 326 Earth- observed crossings of the heliospheric current sheet (HCS), and corresponding crossings at 2.5 R$_\ensuremath\odot$ from PFSS models. While the detailed solar wind models can be optimised to produce \ensuremath\Delta\ensuremath\varphi in good average agreement with HCS crossing data, the ballistic mapping performs almost as well, although all residuals have a sizeable standard deviation \ensuremath\sigma \raisebox-0.5ex\textasciitilde 16○. We conclude that the proposed error cancellation likely contributes to the good performance of ballistic mapping. However, interplanetary acceleration and the height of effective solar wind corotation are both smaller than previously assumed. Our results further suggest that early Parker Solar Probe observations of large v$_\ensuremath\varphi$ around 36 R$_\ensuremath\odot$ do not represent the overall solar wind, due to the requirement for it to be balanced by increased acceleration.
Year of Publication2021
Number of Pages
Date Publishedoct