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Solar wind decrease at high heliographic latitudes detected from Prognoz interplanetary lyman alpha mapping

Abstract : New evidence for a latitudinal decrease of the solar wind mass flux is presented from observations of the interplanetary Lyman alpha emission collected in 1976 and 1977 with satellites Prognoz 5 and 6. The flow of interstellar hydrogen atoms in the solar system is ionized by EUV solar radiation and charge exchange with solar wind protons which accounts for about 80% of the total ionization rate. The resulting gradual decrease of the neutral H density from the upwind region down to the downwind region observed from Ly α intensity measurements allowed the determination of the absolute value of the total ionization rate β for one H atom at 1 AU against ionization. Collected in 1976 and 1977 at five places in the solar system, the measurements are first compared to a model which assumes isotropy of the EUV and solar wind. Strong departures are obvious toward high‐latitude regions, especially when the observer is in the downwind region where the solar wind ionization has had more time to act (cumulative effect). A model was constructed which included a decrease of the ionization rate with heliographic latitude. The adjustment of data allowed for the measurement of the absolute value of the total ionization rate and implies a 50% latitude decrease of the ionization rate due to charge exchange with the solar wind, from βsw = (3.9±0.5) × 10−8; s−1 at the equator to βsw = (2.0±0.5) × 10−8 s−1 at the pole. The corresponding absolute value of the solar wind proton flux is (2.4‐3.6) × 108 cm−2 s−1 at the equator and twice less at the pole if a constant velocity is assumed for the solar wind. Even if the solar wind velocity increases from 400 to 800 km s−1, which would decrease the charge exchange cross section by 25%, there is still a decrease by about 30% of the solar wind mass flux from equator to pole. The Lyman alpha data from Mariner 10 (Kumar and Broadfoot, 1978) had already shown a similar trend in 1974, showing a persistence of the solar wind anisotropy for 3–4 years during a solar minimum. The large‐scale properties of the solar wind mass flux can therefore be monitored at all latitudes by remote sensing of Ly α interplanetary emission, since the solar wind is carving the flow of interstellar H and its anisotropies are ''printed'' on the interplanetary H distribution. With uncalibrated Ly α measurements, an absolute value of the solar wind flux can be determined at all latitudes averaged over a typical 1‐year period.
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Rosine Lallement, Jean-Loup Bertaux, V. G. Kurt. Solar wind decrease at high heliographic latitudes detected from Prognoz interplanetary lyman alpha mapping. Journal of Geophysical Research Space Physics, American Geophysical Union/Wiley, 1985, 90 (A2), pp.1413-1423. ⟨10.1029/JA090iA02p01413⟩. ⟨hal-02889795⟩

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