Using Kappa Distributions to Identify the Potential Energy

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This paper reports on the properties of kappa distributions in the presence of a potential energy. The constructed phase space kappa distribution leads to a polytropic relationship between the local density and temperature. The kappa and polytropic indices are connected via a characteristic and universal relationship: their sum is a constant depending specifically on the potential features. Determining this constant comprises a method essential for revealing the functional form and understanding the nature of the particle potential energy. The method is applied to the solar wind proton plasma at 1 AU. It is shown that a satisfactory physical interpretation of the potential affecting solar wind protons can be given by the interplanetary radial electric field.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1050-1060
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2018
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Geophysics


  • kappa distributions
  • polytropic index
  • potential energy
  • solar wind


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