Structure of the Heliotail from Interstellar Boundary Explorer Observations: Implications for the 11-year Solar Cycle and Pickup Ions in the Heliosheath

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

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27 Scopus citations

Abstract

Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) measurements of energetic neutral atoms (ENAs) from the heliotail show a multi-lobe structure of ENA fluxes as a function of energy between ∼0.71 and 4.29 keV. Below ∼2 keV, there is a single structure of enhanced ENA fluxes centered near the downwind direction. Above ∼2 keV, this structure separates into two lobes, one north and one south of the solar equatorial plane. ENA flux from these two lobes can be interpreted as originating from the fast solar wind (SW) propagating through the inner heliosheath (IHS). Alternatively, a recently published model of the heliosphere suggests that the heliotail may split into a "croissant-like" shape, and that such a geometry could be responsible for the heliotail ENA feature. Here we present results from a time-dependent simulation of the heliosphere that produces a comet-like heliotail, and show that the 11-year solar cycle leads to the formation of ENA lobes with properties remarkably similar to those observed by IBEX. The ENA energy at which the north and south lobes appear suggests that the pickup ion (PUI) temperature in the slow SW of the IHS is ∼107 K. Moreover, we demonstrate that the extinction of PUIs by charge-exchange is an essential process required to create the observed global ENA structure. While the shape and locations of the ENA lobes as a function of energy are well reproduced by PUIs that cross the termination shock, the results appear to be sensitive to the form of the distribution of PUIs injected in the IHS.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number238
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Volume836
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 20 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science

Keywords

  • ISM: atoms
  • Sun: heliosphere
  • magnetohydrodynamics (MHD)
  • solar wind

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