The general structure of the heliospheric magnetic field is well known and has been extensively studied, mostly in the inner heliosphere, out to the orbit of Saturn. Beyond 10 AU, the Pioneer and now the Voyager spacecraft have provided a view of the outer heliosphere. Its structure is strongly affected by large-scale phenomena originating in the Sun's activity, such as the pattern of fast and slow solar wind streams around solar minimum that lead to Corotating Interaction Regions, and the increased frequency and strength of Coronal Mass Ejections around solar maximum. The large current sheet that separates the dominant magnetic polarities in the heliospheric medium, the Heliospheric Current Sheet, provides a variable structure that evolves from a relatively simple geometry close to the solar equatorial plane to what is likely to be a highly complex and dynamic surface reaching to high heliolatitudes at high levels of solar activity. The magnetic field observed in a fluctuating, dynamical heliosheath differs considerably from that in a static heliosheath. In particular, the time between current-sheet crossings (sectors) is quite sensitive to the radial speed of the solar-wind termination shock. If an inwardly moving termination shock moves past an observer on a slowly moving spacecraft, the time between current-sheet crossings in the heliosheath becomes larger, and can become very large, for reasonably expected inward shock speeds. This effect may help to explain recent observations of the magnetic field from the Voyager 1 spacecraft, where, in the heliosheath, the magnetic field remained directed outward from the Sun for several months without a current-sheet crossing. The crossings finally resumed and now occur somewhat regularly. In addition, the magnetic fluctuations in the heliosheath are observed to be quite different from those in the supersonic upstream solar wind.
- Corotating interaction regions
- Heliospheric magnetic field
- Inner heliosheath
- Interplanetary coronal mass ejections
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Astronomy and Astrophysics
- Space and Planetary Science