Interstellar neutral atoms propagating into the heliosphere experience charge exchange with the supersonic solar wind (SW) plasma, generating ions that are picked up by the SW. These pickup ions (PUIs) constitute ∼25% of the proton number density by the time they reach the heliospheric termination shock (HTS). Preferential acceleration of PUIs at the HTS leads to a suprathermal, kappa-like PUI distribution in the heliosheath, which may be further heated in the heliosheath by traveling shocks or pressure waves. In this study, we utilize a dynamic, 3D magnetohydrodynamic model of the heliosphere to show that dynamic heating of PUIs at the HTS and in the inner heliosheath (IHS), as well as a background source of energetic neutral atoms (ENAs) from outside the heliopause, can explain the heliospheric ENA signal observed by the Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) in the Voyager 2 direction. We show that the PUI heating process at the HTS is characterized by a polytropic index larger than 5/3, likely ranging between γ ∼2.3 and 2.7, depending on the time in solar cycle 24 and SW conditions. The ENA fluxes at energies >1.5 keV show large-scale behavior in time with the solar cycle and SW dynamic pressure, whereas ENAs < 1.5 keV primarily exhibit random-like fluctuations associated with SW transients affecting the IHS. We find that ≲220% of the ENAs observed at ∼0.5-6 keV come from other sources, likely from outside the heliopause as secondary ENAs. This study offers the first model replication of the intensity and evolution of IBEX-Hi ENA observations from the outer heliosphere.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Astronomy and Astrophysics
- Space and Planetary Science