Physics Student Research

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Solar Physics

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In studies of solar energetic (E > 10 MeV) particle (SEP) events the Parker spiral (PS) field approximation, based only on the measured 1 AU solar wind (SW) speed Vsw, is nearly always used to determine the coronal or photospheric source locations of the 1 AU magnetic fields. There is no objective way to validate that approximation, but here we seek guidelines for optimizing its application. We first review recent SEP studies showing the extensive use of the PS approximation with various assumptions about coronal and photospheric source fields. We then run the Wang-Sheeley-Arge (WSA) model over selected Carrington rotations (CRs) to track both the photospheric and 5 Rs source locations of the forecasted 1 AU SW, allowing us to compare those WSA sources with the PS sources inferred from the WSA Vsw forecast. We compile statistics of the longitude differences (WSA–PS) for all the CRs and discuss the limitations of using the WSA model to validate the PS approximation. Over nearly all of each CR the PS and WSA source longitudes agree to within several degrees. The agreement is poor only in the slow-fast SW interaction regions characterized by high-speed events (HSEs), where the longitude differences can reach several tens of degrees. This result implies that SEP studies should limit use of the PS approximation around HSEs and use magnetic field polarities as an additional check of solar source connections.


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