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4 Observations of MHD Turbulence in the Polar Wind

In 1994-1995 Ulysses gave us the opportunity to look at the solar wind out-of-the-ecliptic, providing us with new exciting observations. For the first time heliospheric instruments were sampling pure, fast solar wind, free of any dynamical interaction with slow wind. There is one figure that within our scientific community has become as popular as “La Gioconda” by Leonardo da Vinci within the world of art. This figure produced at LANL (McComas et al., 1998) is shown in the upper left panel of Figure 43View Image, which has been taken from a successive paper by (McComas et al., 2003Jump To The Next Citation Point), and summarizes the most important aspects of the large scale structure of the polar solar wind during the minimum of the solar activity phase, as indicated by the low value of the Wolf’s number reported in the lower panel. It shows speed profile, proton number density profile and magnetic field polarity vs. heliographic latitude during the first complete Ulysses’ polar orbit. Fast wind fills up north and south hemispheres of the Sun almost completely, except a narrow latitudinal belt around the equator, where the slow wind dominates. Flow velocity, which rapidly increases from the equator towards higher latitudes, quickly reaches a plateau and the wind escapes the polar regions with a rather uniform speed. Moreover, polar wind is characterized by a lower number density and shows rather uniform magnetic polarity of opposite sign, depending on the hemisphere. Thus, the main difference between ecliptic and polar wind is that this last one completely lacks of dynamical interactions with slower plasma and freely flows into the interplanetary space. The presence or not of this phenomenon, as we will see in the following pages, plays a major role in the development of MHD turbulence during the wind expansion.

During solar maximum (look at the upper right panel of Figure 43View Image) the situation dramatically changes and the equatorial wind extends to higher latitudes, to the extent that there is no longer difference between polar and equatorial wind.

View Image

Figure 43: Large scale solar wind profile as a function of latitude during minimum (left panel) and maximum (right panel) solar cycle phases. The sunspot number is also shown at the bottom panels (adopted from McComas et al., 2003, © 2003 American Geophysical Union, reproduced by permission of American Geophysical Union).

 4.1 Evolving turbulence in the polar wind
 4.2 Polar turbulence studied via Elsässer variables

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