Imprint of the Sun's Evolving Polar Winds on IBEX Energetic Neutral Atom All-sky Observations of the Heliosphere

E. J. Zirnstein, M. A. Dayeh, D. J. McComas, J. M. Sokół

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With 7 years of Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) measurements of energetic neutral atoms (ENAs), IBEX has shown a clear correlation between dynamic changes in the solar wind and the heliosphere's response in the formation of ENAs. In this paper, we investigate temporal variations in the latitudinal-dependent ENA spectrum from IBEX and their relationship to the solar wind speed observed at 1 au. We find that the variation in latitude of the transition in ENA spectral indices between low (≲1.8) and high (1.8) values, as well as the distribution of ENA spectral indices at high and low latitudes, correlates well with the evolution of the fast and slow solar wind latitudinal structure observed near 1 au. This correlation includes a delay due to the time it takes the solar wind to propagate to the termination shock and into the inner heliosheath, and for ENAs to be generated via charge-exchange and travel back toward 1 au. Moreover, we observe a temporal asymmetry in the steepening of the ENA spectrum in the northern and southern hemispheres, consistent with asymmetries observed in the solar wind and polar coronal holes. While this asymmetry is observed near the upwind direction of the heliosphere, it is not yet observed in the tail direction, suggesting a longer line-of-sight integration distance or different processing of the solar wind plasma downstream of the termination shock.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number63
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 1 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • Sun: activity
  • Sun: heliosphere
  • local interstellar matter
  • solar wind


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