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heliospheric current sheet 2001 till 2009

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Published on Sep 20, 2009

Sorry about the crack-pots in the comment threads.

"The heliospheric current sheet is the surface within the Solar System where the polarity of the Sun's magnetic field changes from north to south. The shape of the current sheet results from the influence of the Sun's rotating magnetic field on the plasma in the interplanetary medium (Solar Wind). A small electrical current flows within the sheet, about 10−10 A/m². The thickness of the current sheet is about 10,000 km."

The reference frame is co-orbiting the sun with earth, the blue dot. The magnetic field lines point either radially in towards the sun or outward away from the sun ( http://tiny.cc/9aLOd ) depending on if the test point is above or below the current sheet. The magnetic field lines are 'frozen' into the plasma due to the eddy currents (creating opposing magnetic fields) formed when they attempt to move with respect to the plasma. Because of the rotation of the sun they form a spiral shape. The arrangement is called a parker spiral.

The color of the sun, blue/violet vs. yellow means nothing. It is just an aesthetic change the modeler made over the years.

This video is from 2001 till September 16th 2009. Frames were collected from http://gse.gi.alaska.edu/index.html and converted to mpeg video with imagemagick's convert utility. It took a lot of RAM. The person who made this visualization later left the Geophysical Institute so it is no longer produced. No other 3D visualizations of the HCS exist, so there's nothing for solar cycle 24 to compare this with.

But there solar cycle 24 visualizations of the HCS in 2D taken from 3D simulation code. The most interesting is the WSA-ENLIL-CONE model made available at NASA's iSWA. http://iswa.gsfc.nasa.gov/iswa/iSWA.html under the 'Events' tab. The HCS is shown as the solid white line.

Edit, much later: There is another HCS public model/visualization but it lags real time by many months and doesn't have the planets, http://www.predsci.com/stereo/current...

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