GEOMETRY and CHARACTERISTICS of the HELIOSHEATH REVEALED in the FIRST FIVE YEARS of INTERSTELLAR BOUNDARY EXPLORER OBSERVATIONS

E. J. Zirnstein, H. O. Funsten, J. Heerikhuisen, D. J. McComas, N. A. Schwadron, G. P. Zank

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations

Abstract

We investigate and interpret the geometry and characteristics of the inner heliosheath (IHS) plasma and their impact on the heliotail structure as observed in energetic neutral atom (ENA) maps acquired during the first 5 yr of Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) observations. In particular, IBEX observations of the heliotail reveal distinct, localized emission features (lobes) that provide a rich set of information about the properties and evolution of the heliosheath plasma downstream of the termination shock (TS). We analyze the geometry of the heliotail lobes and find that the plane intersecting the port and starboard heliotail lobe centers is ∼6° from the solar equatorial plane, and the plane intersecting the north and south heliotail lobe centers is ∼90° from the solar equatorial plane, both indicating strong correlation with the fast-slow solar wind asymmetry, and thus reflecting the structure of the IHS flow around the Sun. We also analyze the key parameters and processes that form and shape the port and starboard lobes, which are distinctly different from the north and south lobes. By comparing IBEX ENA observations with results from a simplistic flow model of the heliosphere and a multicomponent description for pickup ions (PUIs) in the IHS, we find that the port and starboard lobe formation is driven by a thin IHS, large nose-tail asymmetry of the distance to the TS (and consequently, a large nose-tail asymmetry of the relative abundance of PUIs at the TS) and the energy-dependent removal of PUIs by charge exchange in the IHS.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number58
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Volume826
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 20 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science

Keywords

  • ISM: atoms
  • Sun: heliosphere
  • solar wind

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'GEOMETRY and CHARACTERISTICS of the HELIOSHEATH REVEALED in the FIRST FIVE YEARS of INTERSTELLAR BOUNDARY EXPLORER OBSERVATIONS'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this