Vol 22, No 1

On Mechanisms of Proton Perpendicular Heating in the Solar Wind: Test Results Based on Wind Observations

Guo-Qing Zhao, Heng-Qiang Feng, De-Jin Wu, Qiang Liu, Yan Zhao, Zhan-Jun Tian


The solar wind protons undergo significant perpendicular heating when they propagate in the interplanetary space. Stochastic heating and cyclotron resonance heating due to kinetic Alfvén waves (KAWs) are two proposed mechanisms. Which mechanism accounts for the perpendicular heating is still an open question. This paper performs tests for the two mechanisms based on Wind observations during 2004 June and 2019 May. Results show that heating rates in terms of stochastic heating theory considerably depend on the parameter of plasma β. For the solar wind with moderately high β, the theoretical heating rates are comparable to or larger than empirical heating rates, suggesting that the stochastic heating could be a powerful mechanism. For the solar wind with low β, on the contrary, the majority of data have theoretical heating rates much lower than empirical heating rates, showing that the stochastic heating seems to be weak in this case. On the other hand, it is found that, when the propagation angles of KAWs are around 70°, theoretically predicted damping wavenumbers of KAWs are equal to the observed wavenumbers at which magnetic energy spectra become significantly steep. This may imply that resonance heating due to cyclotron damping of KAWs could be another mechanism if KAWs have propagation angles around 70°.


turbulence – waves – (Sun:) solar wind

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