A Solar Source of Alfvenic Magnetic Field Switchbacks: In Situ Remnants of Magnetic Funnels on Supergranulation Scales

Academic Article


  • Abstract One of the striking observations from the Parker Solar Probe (PSP) spacecraft is the prevalence in the inner heliosphere of large amplitude, Alfvénic magnetic field reversals termed switchbacks. These δ B R / B ( 1 ) fluctuations occur over a range of timescales and in patches separated by intervals of quiet, radial magnetic field. We use measurements from PSP to demonstrate that patches of switchbacks are localized within the extensions of plasma structures originating at the base of the corona. These structures are characterized by an increase in alpha particle abundance, Mach number, plasma β and pressure, and by depletions in the magnetic field magnitude and electron temperature. These intervals are in pressure balance, implying stationary spatial structure, and the field depressions are consistent with overexpanded flux tubes. The structures are asymmetric in Carrington longitude with a steeper leading edge and a small (∼1°) edge of hotter plasma and enhanced magnetic field fluctuations. Some structures contain suprathermal ions to ∼85 keV that we argue are the energetic tail of the solar wind alpha population. The structures are separated in longitude by angular scales associated with supergranulation. This suggests that these switchbacks originate near the leading edge of the diverging magnetic field funnels associated with the network magnetic field—the primary wind sources. We propose an origin of the magnetic field switchbacks, hot plasma and suprathermals, alpha particles in interchange reconnection events just above the solar transition region and our measurements represent the extended regions of a turbulent outflow exhaust.
  • Authors

  • Bale, SD
  • Horbury, TS
  • Velli, M
  • Desai, MI
  • Halekas, JS
  • McManus, MD
  • Panasenco, O
  • Badman, ST
  • Bowen, TA
  • Chandran, Benjamin
  • Drake, JF
  • Kasper, JC
  • Laker, R
  • Mallet, A
  • Matteini, L
  • Phan, TD
  • Raouafi, NE
  • Squire, J
  • Woodham, LD
  • Woolley, T
  • Status

    Publication Date

  • December 2021
  • Has Subject Area


  • astro-ph.SR
  • physics.plasm-ph
  • physics.space-ph
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Start Page

  • 174
  • End Page

  • 174
  • Volume

  • 923
  • Issue

  • 2