Undergraduate Honors Thesis


Solar Wind Current Sheets Inside and Outside of Switchback Regions Public Deposited

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  • Several long-standing theories postulate that turbulent dissipation can heat solar wind protons in situ. Turbulent dissipation may occur via current sheets, which are small-scale structures embedded in the solar wind magnetic field. This study examines the role that switchbacks - intermediate-scale reversals in the Sun’s magnetic field - may play in heating the solar wind by generating current sheets. We explore this possible relationship by analyzing the characteristics of current sheets within and around switchback regions. Previous studies investigated current sheet properties during Parker Solar Probe’s first solar encounter, analyzed current sheets using a wide range of statistics, and explored trends that switchbacks follow with radial distance from the Sun. The present study builds on these works by analyzing the statistical properties of solar wind current sheets using the Partial Variance of Increments method and focusing on how these properties correlate with the presence of switchbacks to better understand how switchbacks contribute to current sheet activity. Through our analysis, we measure a consistent distribution of current sheets regardless of whether there is concurrent switchback activity. We also observe that current sheets follow a uniform trend with increased distance from the Sun, while switchbacks last longer, a result corroborated by previous work. Our findings suggest that another process that is active inside and outside switchback regions, such as local turbulence, generates current sheets in the solar wind.

Date Awarded
  • 2023-04-06
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Last Modified
  • 2023-04-24
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