First direct measurements of transverse waves in solar polar plumes using SDO/AIA

Jonathan Thurgood, Richard Morton, James McLaughlin

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There is intense interest in determining the precise contribution of Alfvénic waves propagating along solar structures to the problems of coronal heating and solar wind acceleration. Since the launch of SDO/AIA, it has been possible to resolve transverse oscillations in off-limb solar polar plumes and recently McIntosh et al. concluded that such waves are energetic enough to play a role in heating the corona and accelerating the fast solar wind. However, this result is based on comparisons to Monte Carlo simulations and confirmation via direct measurements is still outstanding. Thus, this Letter reports on the first direct measurements of transverse wave motions in solar polar plumes. Over a four hour period, we measure the transverse displacements, periods, and velocity amplitudes of 596 distinct oscillations observed in the 171 Å channel of SDO/AIA. We find a broad range of non-uniformly distributed parameter values which are well described by log-normal distributions with peaks at 234 km, 121 s, and 8 km s^−1, and mean and standard deviations of 407 ± 297 km, 173 ± 118 s, and 14 ± 10 km s^−1. Within standard deviations, our direct measurements are broadly consistent with previous results. However, accounting for the whole of our observed non-uniform parameter distribution we calculate an energy flux of 9–24 W m^−2, which is 4–10 times below the energy requirement for solar wind acceleration. Hence, our results indicate that transverse magnetohydrodynamic waves as resolved by SDO/AIA cannot be the dominant energy source for fast solar wind acceleration in the open-field corona.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberL2
JournalThe Astrophysical Journal Letters
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jul 2014


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