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Solar wind conditions in the outer heliosphere and the distance to the termination shockThe Plasma Science experiment on the Voyager 2 spacecraft has measured the properties of solar wind protons from 1 to 40.4 AU. We use these observations to discuss the probable location and motion of the termination shock of the solar wind. Assuming that the interstellar pressure is due to a 5 micro-G magnetic field draped over the upstream face of the heliopause, the radial variation of ram pressure implies that the termination shock will be located at an average distance near 89 AU. This distance scales inversely as the assumed field strength. There are also large variations in ram pressure on time scales of tens of days, due primarily to large variations in solar wind density at a given radius. Such rapid changes in the solar wind ram pressure can cause large perturbations in the location of the termination shock. We study the nonequilibrium location of the termination shock as it responds to these ram pressure changes. The results of this study suggest that the position of the termination shock can vary by as much as 10 AU in a single year, depending on the nature of variations in the ram pressure, and that multiple crossings of the termination shock by a given outer heliosphere spacecraft are likely. After the first crossing, such models of shock motion will be useful for predicting the timing of subsequent crossings.
Document ID
Document Type
Reprint (Version printed in journal)
Belcher, John W. (Jet Propulsion Lab., California Inst. of Tech. Pasadena, CA, United States)
Lazarus, Alan J. (MIT Cambridge, MA, United States)
Mcnutt, Ralph L., Jr. (Johns Hopkins Univ. Laurel, MD, United States)
Gordon, George S., Jr. (MIT Cambridge, MA, United States)
Date Acquired
August 16, 2013
Publication Date
September 1, 1993
Publication Information
Publication: Journal of Geophysical Research
Volume: 98
Issue: A9
ISSN: 0148-0227
Subject Category
Funding Number(s)
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