Constraining the Evolution of the Proton Distribution Function in the Heliotail

Zirnstein, E. J.; Kumar, R.; Heerikhuisen, J.; McComas, D. J.; Galli, André (2018). Constraining the Evolution of the Proton Distribution Function in the Heliotail. Astrophysical journal, 865(2), p. 150. Institute of Physics Publishing IOP 10.3847/1538-4357/aadb98

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We use Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) measurements of energetic neutral atoms (ENAs) to constrain the proton (mostly pickup ion, PUI) distribution in the heliotail. In our previous study, we solved the Parker transport equation and found that the velocity diffusion coefficient D(v) for PUIs is approximately D(v) ~ 1.1 × 10⁻⁸ km² s⁻³ (v/v₀)¹̇͘͘·³, assuming the initial proton distribution processed by the termination shock (TS), fp,₀, is a kappa distribution with kappa index κp,₀ = 1.63. In this study, we test different forms for f p,₀. We find that if f p,₀ is kappa-distributed and D(v) = D₀(v/v₀)¹̇͘͘·³, any kappa index in the range 1.5 < κp,₀ < 10 is consistent with IBEX data if D₀ ~ 0.8–1.3 × 10⁻⁸ km² s⁻³. While the case where D(v) ∝ v¹̇͘͘·³ yields ENA fluxes that appear to best reproduce IBEX data for any κp,₀, it is possible for D(v) to scale close to ~v²′³ or ~v² within our uncertainties by changing D₀. We also show that an upstream PUI filled-shell distribution that is heated by a quasi-stationary TS, generating a downstream filled-shell with large cutoff speed, yields an excess of ENAs >2 keV compared to IBEX. However, using a fully kinetic particle-in-cell simulation to process a PUI filled-shell across the TS yields ENA spectra consistent with IBEX, reinforcing the significance of self-consistent, preferential PUI heating and diffusion at the TS. Interestingly, an upstream PUI distribution inferred from the particle-in-cell simulation to reproduce Voyager 2 observations of the nose-ward TS is inconsistent with IBEX observations from the heliotail, suggesting differences in the upstream PUI distribution or TS properties.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Physics Institute

UniBE Contributor:

Galli, André


500 Science > 520 Astronomy
600 Technology > 620 Engineering
500 Science > 530 Physics




Institute of Physics Publishing IOP




Dora Ursula Zimmerer

Date Deposited:

08 Apr 2019 14:34

Last Modified:

23 Oct 2019 15:54

Publisher DOI:





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