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Discontinuity analysis of the leading switchback transition regions

Abstract : Context. Magnetic switchbacks are magnetic structures characterized as intervals of sudden reversal in the radial component of the pristine solar wind’s magnetic field. Switchbacks comprise of magnetic spikes that are preceded and succeeded by switchback transition regions within which the radial magnetic field reverses. Determining switchback generation and evolution mechanisms will further our understanding of the global circulation and transportation of the Sun’s open magnetic flux. Aims. The present study juxtaposes near-Sun switchback transition regions’ characteristics with similar magnetic discontinuities observed at greater radial distances with the goal of determining local mechanism(s) through which switchback transition regions may evolve. Methods. Measurements from fields and plasma suites aboard the Parker Solar Probe were utilized to characterize switchback transition regions. Minimum variance analysis (MVA) was applied on the magnetic signatures of the leading switchback transition regions. The leading switchback transition regions with robust MVA solutions were identified and categorized based on their magnetic discontinuity characteristics. Results. It is found that 78% of the leading switchback transition regions are rotational discontinuities (RD). Another 21% of the leading switchback transition regions are categorized as “either” discontinuity (ED), defined as small relative changes in both magnitude and the normal component of the magnetic field. The RD-to-ED event count ratio is found to reduce with increasing distance from the Sun. The proton radial temperature sharply increases (+ 29.31%) at the leading RD-type switchback transition regions, resulting in an enhanced thermal pressure gradient. Magnetic curvature at the leading RD-type switchback transition regions is often negligible. Magnetic curvature and the thermal pressure gradient are parallel (i.e., “bad” curvature) in 74% of the leading RD-type switchback transition regions. Conclusions. The leading switchback transition regions may evolve from RD-type into ED-type magnetic discontinuities while propagating away from the Sun. Local magnetic reconnection is likely not the main driver of this evolution. Other drivers, such as plasma instabilities, need to be investigated to explain the observed significant jump in proton temperature and the prevalence of bad curvature at the leading RD-type switchback transition regions.
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https://hal.sorbonne-universite.fr/hal-03265799
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Submitted on : Monday, June 21, 2021 - 11:37:30 AM
Last modification on : Tuesday, July 13, 2021 - 3:26:47 AM

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M. Akhavan-Tafti, J. Kasper, J. Huang, S. Bale. Discontinuity analysis of the leading switchback transition regions. Astronomy and Astrophysics - A&A, EDP Sciences, 2021, 650, pp.A4. ⟨10.1051/0004-6361/202039508⟩. ⟨hal-03265799⟩

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