Evolution of the Heliotail Lobes over a Solar Cycle as Measured by IBEX

M. A. Dayeh, E. J. Zirnstein, S. A. Fuselier, H. O. Funsten, D. J. McComas

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Energetic neutral atom (ENA) measurements by IBEX reveal that the heliotail comprises an energy-dependent multilobe structure. We examine the heliotail evolution over 11 yr of IBEX observations covering a full solar cycle (SC). We find the following: (1) The heliotail structure persists over the entire SC, comprising three ENA-enhanced and two ENA-suppressed lobes. (2) Lobe sizes and locations are generally stable but exhibit variations in ENA fluxes driven by the SC. (3) Lobe centers follow a cyclic behavior over multiple SC phases, indicating direct signatures of slow and fast solar wind (SW) interactions in the inner heliosheath (IHS). (4) The tilted plane passing through the port-starboard lobes’ centers oscillates in latitude but maintains its tilt from the ecliptic plane, likely a consequence of the interstellar magnetic field draping around the heliosphere. (5) The transition of the central heliotail from a single lobe at ∼1.1 keV to two lobes above ∼2 keV is SC-dependent and directly reflects the IHS plasma properties, i.e., when ENA fluxes from fast SW from the polar coronal holes change over time. (6) The central lobe exhibits a substructure that is enhanced and offset from the downwind direction, possibly indicating an asymmetric ENA emission or an asymmetry in the parent plasma distribution. These results reveal the general stability of the heliotail structure over time and distinct variations in individual lobes’ properties in relation to the SC phases. Furthermore, results show the effects of multiple SC phases in the tail, reflecting different ENA travel times and source histories.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number27
JournalAstrophysical Journal, Supplement Series
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 1 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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