In this report we employ an empirically driven, three-dimensional MHD model to explore the evolution of the heliospheric current sheet (HCS) during the course of the solar cycle. We compare our results with a simpler ``constant-speed'' approach for mapping the HCS outward into the solar wind to demonstrate that dynamic effects can substantially deform the HCS in the inner heliosphere (<~5 AU). We find that these deformations are most pronounced at solar minimum and become less significant at solar maximum, when interaction regions are less effective. Although solar maximum is typically associated with transient, rather than corotating, processes, we show that even under such conditions, the HCS can maintain its structure over the course of several solar rotations. While the HCS may almost always be topologically equivalent to a ``ballerina skirt,'' we discuss an interval approaching the maximum of solar cycle 23 (Carrington rotations 1960 and 1961) when the shape would be better described as ``conch shell''-like. We use Ulysses magnetic field measurements to support the model results.
Journal of Geophysical Research (Space Physics)
- Pub Date:
- July 2002
- Interplanetary Physics: Solar cycle variations (7536);
- Interplanetary Physics: Interplanetary magnetic fields;
- Interplanetary Physics: Corotating streams;
- Interplanetary Physics: Solar wind plasma