From Sun to Interplanetary Space: What is the Pathlength of Solar Energetic Particles?

Laitinen, Timo Lauri mikael orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-7719-7783 and Dalla, Silvia orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-7837-5780 (2019) From Sun to Interplanetary Space: What is the Pathlength of Solar Energetic Particles? The Astrophysical Journal, 887 (2). p. 222. ISSN 0004-637X

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Solar energetic particles (SEPs), accelerated during solar eruptions, propagate in turbulent solar wind before being
observed with in situ instruments. In order to interpret their origin through comparison with remote sensing
observations of the solar eruption, we thus must deconvolve the transport effects due to the turbulent magnetic
fields from the SEP observations. Recent research suggests that the SEP propagation is guided by the turbulent
meandering of the magnetic fieldlines across the mean magnetic field. However, the lengthening of the distance the
SEPs travel, due to the fieldline meandering, has so far not been included in SEP event analysis. This omission can
cause significant errors in estimation of the release times of SEPs at the Sun. We investigate the distance traveled
by the SEPs by considering them to propagate along fieldlines that meander around closed magnetic islands that
are inherent in turbulent plasma. We introduce a fieldline random walk model which takes into account the
physical scales associated to the magnetic islands. Our method remedies the problem of the diffusion equation
resulting in unrealistically short pathlengths, and the fractal dependence of the pathlength of random walk on the
length of the random-walk step. We find that the pathlength from the Sun to 1au can be below the nominal Parker
spiral length for SEP events taking place at solar longitudes 45E to 60W, whereas the western and behind-the-limb
particles can experience pathlengths longer than 2au due to fieldline meandering.

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