Alfven Waves and Associated Energetic Ions Downstream from Uranus

M. Zhang, J. W. Belcher, J. D. Richardson and C. W. Smith

Journal of Geophysical Research, A96, 1647-1660 (1991)


We report observations of low-frequency waves in the solar wind downstream from Uranus. These waves are observed by the Voyager spacecraft for more than 2 weeks after the encounter with Uranus and are present during this period whenever the interplanetary magnetic field is oriented such that the field lines intersect the Uranian bow shock. The magnetic field and velocity components transverse to the background field are strongly correlated, consistent with the interpretation that these waves are Alfvenic and/or fast-mode waves. The waves have a spacecraft frame frequency of about 0.001 Hz, and when first observed near the bow shock have an amplitude comparable to the background field. As the spacecraft moves further from Uranus, the amplitude decays. The waves appear to propagate along the magnetic field lines outward from Uranus and are right-hand polarized. Theory suggests that these waves are generated in the upstream region by a resonant instability with a proton beam streaming along the magnetic field lines. The solar wind subsequently carries these waves downstream to the spacecraft location. These waves are associated with the presence of energetic (greater than 28 keV) ions observed by the low-energy charged particle instrument. These ions appear two days after the start of the wave activity and occur thereafter whenever the Alfven waves occur, increasing in intensity away from Uranus. The ions are argued to originate in the Uranian magnetosphere, but pitch-angle scattering in the upstream region is required to bring them downstream to the spacecraft location.

Return to Charles W. Smith's Publication Page
Return to Charles W. Smith Home Page