Magnetic holes in the solar wind between 0.3 AU and 17 AU
- 1Institut für Geophysik und Meteorologie, Universität zu Köln, D-50923, Germany
- 2Astrophysikalisches Institut Potsdam, D-14482 Potsdam, Germany
- 3Bartol Research Foundation, University of Delaware, Newark, USA
Abstract. Magnetic holes (MHs) are depressions of the magnetic field magnitude. Turner et al. (1977) identified the first MHs in the solar wind and determined an occurrence rate of 1.5 MHs/d. Winterhalter et al. (1994) developed an automatic identification criterion to search for MHs in Ulysses data in the solar wind between 1 AU and 5.4 AU. We adopt their criterion to expand the search to the heliocentric distances down to 0.3 AU using data from Helios 1 and 2 and up to 17 AU using data from Voyager 2. We relate our observations to two theoretical approaches which describe the so-called linear MHs in which the magnetic vector varies in magnitude rather than direction. Therefore we focus on such linear MHs with a directional change less than 10º. With our observations of about 850 MHs we present the following results: Approximately 30% of all the identified MHs are linear. The maximum angle between the initial magnetic field vector and any vector inside the MH is 20º in average and shows a weak relation to the depth of the MHs. The angle between the initial magnetic field and the minimum variance direction of those structures is large and very probably close to 90º. The MHs are placed in a high β environment even though the average solar wind shows a smaller β. The widths decrease from about 50 proton inertial length in a region between 0.3 AU and 0.4 AU heliocentric distance to about 15 proton inertial length at distances larger than 10 AU. This quantity is correlated with the β of the MH environments with respect to the heliocentric distance. There is a clear preference for the occurrence of depressions instead of compressions. We discuss these results with regard to the main theories of MHs, the mirror instability and the alternative soliton approach. Although our observational results are more consistent with the soliton theory we favour a combination of both. MHs might be the remnants of initial mirror mode structures which can be described as solitons during the main part of their lifetime.