Strong Preferential Ion Heating is Limited to within the Solar Alfvén Surface

Justin C. Kasper, Kristopher G. Klein
2019 Astrophysical Journal Letters  
The decay of the solar wind helium to hydrogen temperature ratio due to Coulomb thermalization can be used to measure how far from the Sun strong preferential ion heating occurs. Previous work has shown that a zone of preferential ion heating, resulting in mass-proportional temperatures, extends about $20-40 R_\odot$ from the Sun on average. Here we look at the motion of the outer boundary of this zone with time and compare it to other physically meaningful distances. We report that the
more » ... rt that the boundary moves in lockstep with the Alfv\'en point over the solar cycle, contracting and expanding with solar activity with a correlation coefficient of better than 0.95 and with an RMS difference of $4.23 R_\odot$. Strong preferential ion heating apparently is predominatly active below the Alfv\'en point. To definitively identify the underlying preferential heating mechanisms, it will be necessary to make in situ measurements of the local plasma conditions below the Alfv\'en surface. We predict Parker Solar Probe (PSP) will be the first spacecraft to directly observe this heating in action, but only a couple of years after launch as activity increases, the zone expands, and PSP's perihelion drops.
doi:10.3847/2041-8213/ab1de5 fatcat:3wxlu3lutzdqpjagotg3gsqkaa