Generation of Kappa Distributions in Solar Wind at 1 au

G. Livadiotis, M. I. Desai, L. B. Wilson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations


We examine the generation of kappa distributions in the solar wind plasma near 1 au. Several mechanisms are mentioned in the literature, each characterized by a specific relationship between the solar wind plasma features, the interplanetary magnetic field (IMF), and the kappa index - the parameter that governs the kappa distributions. This relationship serves as a signature condition that helps the identification of the mechanism in the plasma. In general, a mechanism that generates kappa distributions involves a single or a series of stochastic or physical processes that induces local correlations among particles. We identify three fundamental solar wind plasma conditions that can generate kappa distributions, noted as (i) Debye shielding, (ii) frozen IMF, and (iii) temperature fluctuations, each one prevailing in different scales of solar wind plasma and magnetic field properties. Moreover, our findings show that the kappa distributions, and thus, their generating mechanisms, vary significantly with solar wind features: (i) the kappa index has different dependence on the solar wind speed for slow and fast modes, i.e., slow wind is characterized by a quasi-constant kappa index, κ ≈ 4.3 ± 0.7, while fast wind exhibits kappa indices that increase with bulk speed; (ii) the dispersion of magnetosonic waves is more effective for lower kappa indices (i.e., further from thermal equilibrium); and (iii) the kappa and polytropic indices are positively correlated, as it was anticipated by the theory.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number142
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2018
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • Sun: heliosphere
  • methods: analytical
  • methods: statistical
  • plasmas


Dive into the research topics of 'Generation of Kappa Distributions in Solar Wind at 1 au'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this