Solar Physics

, Volume 93, Issue 2, pp 415–434 | Cite as

Interpretation of3He abundance variations in the solar wind

  • M. A. Coplan
  • K. W. Ogilvie
  • P. Bochsler
  • J. Geiss


The ion composition instrument (ICI) on ISEE-3 has observed the isotopes of helium of mass 3 and 4 in the solar wind almost continuously between August 1978 and July 1982. This period included the increase towards the maximum of solar activity cycle 21, the maximum period, and the beginning of the descent towards solar minimum. Observations were made when the solar wind speed was between 300 and 620 km s−1. For part of the period evidence for regular interplanetary magnetic sector structure was clear and a number of3He flares occurred during this time.

The long-term average4He++/3He++ flux ratio 〉R〈, was 2050 ± 200, a agreement with a previously reported result obtained using part of this data set, and in very good agreement with the previous measurements made over much shorter periods of time with the foil technique. The 〉R〈 values for 6-month intervals show statistically significant differences. The highest of these values is 2300 and coincides with the solar maximum of cycle 21 indicating that at solar maximum there may be changes in the character and rate of occurrence of short-term variations in 〉R〈. We also find that 〉R〈 drops under conditions of low proton flux in the solar wind, and that it is high when solar wind speeds are lowest.

At solar wind speeds above ∼400 km s−1R〈 is nearby constant at about 2000; at lower speeds it is larger and more variable, in agreement with the idea that the sources of high and low speed wind are different. At times of sector boundary current sheet crossings, identified with coronal streamers, there is a characteristic rise in the value of 〉R〈 indicating an encounter with a plasma with reduced3He++ abundance. Autocorrelations have been computed for4He++ and3He++ and indicate correlation times of about 14 and 20 hr, respectively. Periods of duration of about one day whenR is less than 1000 tend to coincide with the observation of compound streams.

The possibility of detectable increases in3He++ flux in plasma which left the Sun at the time of3He flares has been investigated, but no significant increase was seen.


Solar Wind Current Sheet Solar Minimum Solar Maximum Flux Ratio 
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Copyright information

© D. Reidel Publishing Company 1984

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. A. Coplan
    • 1
  • K. W. Ogilvie
    • 2
  • P. Bochsler
    • 3
  • J. Geiss
    • 3
  1. 1.Institute for Physical Science and TechnologyUniversity of MarylandUSA
  2. 2.Goddard Space Flight CenterGreenbelt
  3. 3.Physikalisches InstitutUniversity oif BernSwitzerland

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