Measurements of small-scale turbulent fluctuations in the solar wind find a non-zero right-handed magnetic helicity. This has been interpreted as evidence for ion cyclotron damping. However, theoretical and empirical evidence suggests that the majority of the energy in solar wind turbulence resides in low-frequency anisotropic kinetic Alfvén wave fluctuations that are not subject to ion cyclotron damping. We demonstrate that a dissipation range comprised of kinetic Alfvén waves also produces a net right-handed fluctuating magnetic helicity signature consistent with observations. Thus, the observed magnetic helicity signature does not necessarily imply that ion cyclotron damping is energetically important in the solar wind.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Astronomy and Astrophysics
- Space and Planetary Science
- Solar wind