Energetic particles, tangential discontinuities, and solar flux tubes

M. Neugebauer, J. Giacalone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


This study examines the probable sources of sharp changes in the flux of energetic particles (EPs) in the solar wind. Data acquired by the ACE Low Energy Magnetic Spectrometer sensors during 1999 were used to identify EP boundaries that were not located at interplanetary shocks or caused by intermittent connection to the Earth's bow shock. It was found that at least 68%, and probably 80%, of such boundaries occur at significant changes in the plasma and magnetic field in the solar wind. Those changes are consistent with crossing preexisting tangential discontinuities or flux tube boundaries rather than by local MHD turbulence or time-dependent bursts of acceleration. Because some of the EP boundaries would not have been detected by Borovsky's (2008) analysis of flux tube boundaries, it is concluded that such boundaries in the solar wind are at least 30% more prevalent than previously suggested. The result can also be used to explain some observations of localized variations in EP flux both ahead of and behind the interplanetary shocks where particle acceleration occurred without requiring local acceleration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8281-8287
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2015


  • discontinuities
  • energetic particles
  • flux tube boundaries

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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