An Unusual Heliospheric Plasma Sheet Crossing at 1 AU 

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Chin-Chun Wu1, Kan Liou2, Angelos Vourlidas1,2, Ronald P Lepping3, Y.-M. Wang1, Simon P Plunkett1, Dennis G Socker1 and Shi Tsan Wu4, (1)Naval Research Lab DC, Washington, DC, United States, (2)JHU/Applied Physics Lab, Laurel, MD, United States, (3)NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Emeritus, Greenbelt, MD, United States, (4)University of Alabama in Huntsville, Huntsville, AL, United States
At 11:46UT on September 9, 2011, the Wind spacecraft encountered an interplanetary (IP) fast forward shock. The shock was followed almost immediately (~5 minutes) by a short duration (~35 minutes), extremely large density pulse with a density peak of ~100 cm-3. While a sharp increase in the solar wind density is typical of an IP shock downstream, the unusual large density increase prompts a further investigation. After a close examination of other in situ data from Wind, we find the density pulse was associated with (1) a spike in the plasma beta (ratio of thermal to magnetic pressure), (2) multiple sign changes in the azimuthal angle of magnetic field, (3) depressed magnetic field, (4) a small radial component of magnetic field, and (5) a large (>90 degrees) pitch-angle change in suprathermal electrons (>200 eV) across the density pulse. We conclude that the density pulse is the heliospheric plasma sheet and the estimated thickness is ~820,000km. The unusually large density pulse is likely to be a result of the shock compression from behind. This view is supported by our 3D magnetohydrodynamic simulation. The detailed result and implications will be discussed.

*This work is supported partially by ONR 6.1 program