Angular Scattering in Charge Exchange: Issues and Implications for Secondary Interstellar Hydrogen

P. Swaczyna, D. J. McComas, E. J. Zirnstein, J. Heerikhuisen

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13 Scopus citations


Interstellar neutral atoms provide a remote diagnostic of plasma in the outer heliosheath and the very local interstellar medium via charge exchange collisions that convert ions into atoms and vice versa. So far, most studies of interstellar atoms assumed that daughter hydrogen atoms directly inherit the kinetic properties of parent protons. This assumption neglects angular scattering of the interacting particles. However, for low relative velocities, as expected for charge exchanges in the outer heliosheath, this scattering is significant. In this study, we present how the parameters of daughter populations depend on the relative velocity and temperatures of parent populations. For this purpose, we numerically compute collision terms with and without this scattering. We find that the secondary population of interstellar hydrogen atoms, for the parent populations with the relative bulk velocity of 20 km s-1 and equal temperatures of 7500 K, has ∼2 km s-1 higher bulk velocity if the scattering is taken into account. Additionally, temperatures are higher by ∼2400 K and ∼1200 K in parallel and perpendicular directions to the relative motion of parent populations, respectively. Moreover, a significant departure of secondary atoms from the Maxwell-Boltzmann distribution is expected for high relative velocities of parent populations. This process affects the distribution and density of interstellar atoms in the heliosphere and production of pickup ions. Thus, we show that angular scattering in charge exchange collisions is important to include in analyses of interstellar neutral atoms and pickup ions observed at 1 au and in the outer heliosphere.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number223
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 20 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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