Thermal Anisotropies in the Solar Wind: Evidence of Heating by Interstellar Pickup Ions?

J. D. Richardson, J. L. Phillips, C. W. Smith and P. C. Gray

Geophysical Research Letters, 23, 3259-3262 (1996)


A recent paper by Gray et al. (1996) shows that the Alfven ion cyclotron instability is generated by newly created pickup ions and heats the thermal solar wind protons in the direction perpendicular to the magnetic field. This instability operates most effectively in regions where the plasma beta is low, so this mechanism predicts that the ratio of the temperatures perpendicular and parallel to the field should be larger in low-beta regions of the solar wind. We look for this effect in ISEE-3 and Voyager data. The near-Earth ISEE-3 data show no evidence for greater thermal anisotropies at low beta. Voyager 2 data obtained between 1 and 8 AU show that the ambient proton anisotropy is a function of beta, with parallel temperatures generally greater than perpendicular temperatures except when beta is small. For Voyager 2 data, the average ratio of perpendicular to parallel temperature is about 0.9, but this ratio is about 2 when beta is less than 0.1 and about 4 when beta is less than 0.01.

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