Document Type

Article

Publication Date

8-20-2006

Publication Title

The Astrophysical Journal

Abstract

At present, the heliosphere is embedded in a warm, low-density interstellar cloud that belongs to a cloud system flowing through the local standard of rest with a velocity near ~18 km s-1. The velocity structure of the nearest interstellar material (ISM), combined with theoretical models of the local interstellar cloud (LIC), suggest that the Sun passes through cloudlets on timescales of ≤103-104 yr, so the heliosphere has been, and will be, exposed to different interstellar environments over time. By means of a multifluid model that treats plasma and neutral hydrogen self-consistently, the interaction of the solar wind with a variety of partially ionized ISM is investigated, with the focus on low-density cloudlets such as are currently near the Sun. Under the assumption that the basic solar wind parameters remain/were as they are today, a range of ISM parameters (from cold neutral to hot ionized, with various densities and velocities) is considered. In response to different interstellar boundary conditions, the heliospheric size and structure change, as does the abundance of interstellar and secondary neutrals in the inner heliosphere, and the cosmic-ray level in the vicinity of Earth. Some empirical relations between interstellar parameters and heliospheric boundary locations, as well as neutral densities, are extracted from the models.

DOI

10.1086/505588

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