Dependence of Solar Wind Proton Temperature on the Polarization Properties of Alfvénic Fluctuations at Ion-kinetic Scales

L. D. Woodham, R. T. Wicks, D. Verscharen, J. M. Tenbarge, G. G. Howes

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We use fluctuating magnetic helicity to investigate the polarization properties of Alfvénic fluctuations at ion-kinetic scales in the solar wind as a function of β p , the ratio of proton thermal pressure to magnetic pressure, and θ vB , the angle between the proton flow and local mean magnetic field, B 0. Using almost 15 yr of Wind observations, we separate the contributions to helicity from fluctuations with wavevectors, k, quasi-parallel and oblique to B 0, finding that the helicity of Alfvénic fluctuations is consistent with predictions from linear Vlasov theory. This result suggests that the nonlinear turbulent fluctuations at these scales share at least some polarization properties with Alfvén waves. We also investigate the dependence of proton temperature in the β p -θ vB plane to probe for possible signatures of turbulent dissipation, finding that it correlates with θ vB . The proton temperature parallel to B 0 is higher in the parameter space where we measure the helicity of right-handed Alfvénic fluctuations, and the temperature perpendicular to B 0 is higher where we measure left-handed fluctuations. This finding is inconsistent with the general assumption that by sampling different θ vB in the solar wind we can analyze the dependence of the turbulence distribution on θ kB , the angle between k and B 0. After ruling out both instrumental and expansion effects, we conclude that our results provide new evidence for the importance of local kinetic processes that depend on θ vB in determining proton temperature in the solar wind.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number101
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 10 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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