Determination of the polytropic index of the free-streaming solar wind
Totten, Tracy L.
Freeman, John W., Jr.
Master of Science
Observations of solar wind temperatures near the Earth indicate that heating of the solar wind plasma exists. An alternate approach to finding explicit heating terms for the energy equation is to use a polytropic approximation. Using data from the Helios 1 spacecraft, an empirical value for the polytropic index of the solar wind is found to be independent of speed state, within statistical error, and has an average value of 1.47. Application of this empirically derived index to a solar wind computer model is examined by comparing the MHD energy equation and the polytropic relation. The result is obtained that the polytropic index can replace the adiabatic index in the MHD energy equation to simulate the effects of heat conduction if the assumptions are made that the heat conduction flux has a specific form and the particle pressure has no explicit time dependence. Justifications and limitations of this approach are discussed.
Plasma physics; Astronomy; Astrophysics