The new horizons solar wind around pluto (swap) observations of the solar wind from 11-33 au

H. A. Elliott, D. J. McComas, P. Valek, G. Nicolaou, S. Weidner, G. Livadiotis

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38 Scopus citations


The Solar Wind Around Pluto (SWAP) instrument on National Aeronautics and Space Administration's New Horizons Pluto mission has collected solar wind observations en route from Earth to Pluto, and these observations continue beyond Pluto. Few missions have explored the solar wind in the outer heliosphere making this dataset a critical addition to the field. We created a forward model of SWAP count rates, which includes a comprehensive instrument response function based on laboratory and flight calibrations. By fitting the count rates with this model, the proton density (n), speed (V), and temperature (T) parameters are determined. Comparisons between SWAP parameters and both propagated 1 au observations and prior Voyager 2 observations indicate consistency in both the range and mean wind values. These comparisons as well as our additional findings confirm that small and midsized solar wind structures are worn down with increasing distance due to dynamic interaction of parcels of wind with different speed. For instance, the T-V relationship steepens, as the range in V is limited more than the range in T with distance. At times the T-V correlation clearly breaks down beyond 20 au, which may indicate wind currently expanding and cooling may have an elevated T reflecting prior heating and compression in the inner heliosphere. The power of wind parameters at shorter periodicities decreases with distance as the longer periodicities strengthen. The solar rotation periodicity is present in temperature beyond 20 au indicating the observed parcel temperature may reflect not only current heating or cooling, but also heating occurring closer to the Sun.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number19
JournalAstrophysical Journal, Supplement Series
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2016
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • Sun: heliosphere
  • Sun: rotation
  • interplanetary medium
  • shock waves
  • solar wind


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