Suprathermal Electrons in the Solar Corona: Can Nonlocal Transport Explain Heliospheric Charge States?
There have been several ideas proposed to explain how the Sun's corona is heated and how the solar wind is accelerated. Some models assume that open magnetic field lines are heated by Alfvén waves driven by photospheric motions and dissipated after undergoing a turbulent cascade. Other models posit that much of the solar wind's mass and energy is injected via magnetic reconnection from closed coronal loops. The latter idea is motivated by observations of reconnecting jets and also by similarities of ion composition between closed loops and the slow wind. Wave/turbulence models have also succeeded in reproducing observed trends in ion composition signatures versus wind speed. However, the absolute values of the charge-state ratios predicted by those models tended to be too low in comparison with observations. This Letter refines these predictions by taking better account of weak Coulomb collisions for coronal electrons, whose thermodynamic properties determine the ion charge states in the low corona. A perturbative description of nonlocal electron transport is applied to an existing set of wave/turbulence models. The resulting electron velocity distributions in the low corona exhibit mild suprathermal tails characterized by "kappa" exponents between 10 and 25. These suprathermal electrons are found to be sufficiently energetic to enhance the charge states of oxygen ions, while maintaining the same relative trend with wind speed that was found when the distribution was assumed to be Maxwellian. The updated wave/turbulence models are in excellent agreement with solar wind ion composition measurements.
The Astrophysical Journal
- Pub Date:
- August 2014
- solar wind;
- Sun: atmosphere;
- Sun: corona;
- Sun: heliosphere;
- Astrophysics - Solar and Stellar Astrophysics
- Accepted for publication in Astrophysical Journal Letters. 5 pages (emulateapj style), 3 figures