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The Imprint of Intermittent Interchange Reconnection on the Solar Wind

Wyper, Peter F.; DeVore, C.R.; Antiochos, S.K.; Pontin, D.I.; Higginson, Aleida K.; Scott, Roger; Masson, Sophie; Pelegrin-Frachon, Theo

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C.R. DeVore

S.K. Antiochos

D.I. Pontin

Aleida K. Higginson

Roger Scott

Sophie Masson

Theo Pelegrin-Frachon


The solar wind is known to be highly structured in space and time. Observations from Parker Solar Probe have revealed an abundance of so-called magnetic switchbacks within the near-Sun solar wind. In this Letter, we use a high-resolution, adaptive-mesh, magnetohydrodynamics simulation to explore the disturbances launched into the solar wind by intermittent/bursty interchange reconnection and how they may be related to magnetic switchbacks. We find that repeated ejection of plasmoid flux ropes into the solar wind produces a curtain of propagating and interacting torsional Alfvénic waves. We demonstrate that this curtain forms when plasmoid flux ropes dynamically realign with the radial field as they are ejected from the current layer and that this is a robust effect of the 3D geometry of the interchange reconnection region. Simulated flythroughs of this curtain in the low corona reveal an Alfvénic patch that closely resembles observations of switchback patches, but with relatively small magnetic field deflections. Therefore, we suggest that switchbacks could be the solar wind imprint of intermittent interchange reconnection in the corona, provided an in situ process subsequently amplifies the disturbances to generate the large deflections or reversals of radial field that are typically observed. That is to say, our results indicate that a combination of low-coronal and inner-heliospheric mechanisms may be required to explain switchback observations.


Wyper, P. F., DeVore, C., Antiochos, S., Pontin, D., Higginson, A. K., Scott, R., …Pelegrin-Frachon, T. (2022). The Imprint of Intermittent Interchange Reconnection on the Solar Wind. Astrophysical Journal Letters, 941(2), Article L29.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Dec 4, 2022
Online Publication Date Dec 16, 2022
Publication Date Dec 20, 2022
Deposit Date Dec 19, 2022
Publicly Available Date Dec 19, 2022
Journal The Astrophysical Journal Letters
Print ISSN 2041-8205
Electronic ISSN 2041-8213
Publisher American Astronomical Society
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 941
Issue 2
Article Number L29


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Original content from this work may be used under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 licence. Any further distribution of this work must maintain attribution to the author(s) and the title of the work, journal citation and DOI.

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