University of Oulu

Asymmetry of the heliospheric magnetic field

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Author: Virtanen, Ilpo1,2
Organizations: 1University of Oulu Graduate School
2University of Oulu, Faculty of Science, Department of Physics
Format: ebook
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 1.4 MB)
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Language: English
Published: 2013
Publish Date: 2013-10-29
Thesis type: Doctoral Dissertation
Defence Note: Academic Dissertation to be presented with the assent of the Doctoral Training Committee of Technology and Natural Sciences of the University of Oulu for public discussion in the Auditorium GO101, Linnanmaa, on 8th November, 2013, at 12 o’clock noon.
Tutor: Professor Kalevi Mursula
Reviewer: Professor Rudolf von Steiger
Doctor Andrey G. Tlatov
Opponent: Doctor Geza Erdös
Kustos: Professor Kalevi Mursula


This thesis studies the structure and evolution of the large scale heliospheric magnetic field. The work covers the space age, the period when satellite measurements revolutionized our knowledge about space. Now, this period is known to be the declining phase of the grand modern maximum of solar activity.

The thesis addresses how the hemispherical asymmetry of solar activity is seen in the photospheric magnetic field and how it appears in the corona and in the heliosphere until the termination shock. According to geomagnetic and heliospheric observations, the heliospheric current sheet has been southward shifted around the solar minima since 1930s. Using Ulysses probe observations, we derive an accurate estimate of 2° for the southward shift of the heliospheric current sheet during two very different solar minimum in the mid 1990s and 2000s. The overall structure of the heliospheric magnetic field has changed significantly now when the grand modern maximum has come to an end. During the present low solar activity the polar fields are weaker and the heliospheric current sheet covered a wide latitudinal range during the previous minimum. When the heliospheric current sheet is wide the asymmetry is less visible at the Earth’s orbit.

We extend our study to the outer heliosphere using measurements made by Voyager and Pioneer probes and show that the hemispherical asymmetry in the coronal hole evolution, and the related southward shift of the heliospheric current sheet, are seen until the termination shock. In order to understand the origin of the hemispherical asymmetry, we complete a multipole analysis of the solar magnetic field since 1976. We find that the minimum time southward shift of the heliospheric current sheet is due to the quadrupole component of the coronal magnetic field. The quadrupole term exists because the generation and transport of the magnetic flux in the Sun tends to proceed differently in the northern and southern hemispheres.

During this and the following decade the Sun is most likely going to be less active than it has been since 1920s. Therefore it is probable that the hemispherical asymmetry of the heliospheric magnetic field will be less visible in the ecliptic plane in the near future. Now, when the Sun seems to be at the maximum of cycle 24, we are looking forward to see how the polar fields and the heliospheric magnetic field are formed when approaching the following solar minimum. It is possible that, as the activity rises again after the present and future low cycles, the hemispherical asymmetry will be opposite to that of the 20th century and the minimum time heliospheric current sheet would be northward shifted.

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Series: Report series in physical sciences
ISSN: 1239-4327
ISSN-L: 1239-4327
ISBN: 978-952-62-0256-3
ISBN Print: 978-952-62-0255-6
Issue: 84
Copyright information: © University of Oulu, 2013. This publication is copyrighted. You may download, display and print it for your own personal use. Commercial use is prohibited.