Using TeV Cosmic Rays to probe the Heliosphere's Boundary with the Local Interstellar Medium

Paolo Desiati, Juan Carlos Díaz Vélez, Gwenael Giacinti, Francesco Longo, Elena Orlando, Nikolai Pogorelov, Ming Zhang

Submitted on 16 September 2022


The heliosphere is the magnetic structure formed by the Sun's atmosphere extending into the local interstellar medium (ISM). The boundary separating the heliosphere from the ISM is a still largely unexplored region of space. Even though both Voyager spacecraft entered the local ISM and are delivering data, they are two points piercing a vast region of space at specific times. The heliospheric boundary regulates the penetration of MeV- GeV galactic cosmic rays (CR) in the inner heliosphere. Interstellar keV neutral atoms are crucial to the outer heliosphere since they can penetrate unperturbed and transfer energy to the solar wind. Missions such as NASA's IBEX and Cassini are designed to detect neutral atoms and monitor charge exchange processes at the heliospheric boundary. The heliosphere does not modulate the TeV CR intensity, but it does influence their arrival direction distribution. Ground-based CR observatories have provided accurate maps of CR anisotropy as a function of energy in the last couple of decades. Combining observations to produce all-sky coverage makes it possible to investigate the heliosphere's impact on TeV CR particles. We can numerically calculate the pristine TeV CR distribution in the local ISM with state-of-the-art heliosphere models. Only by subtracting the heliospheric influence is it possible to use TeV CR observations to infer propagation properties and the characteristics of magnetic turbulence in the ISM. Numerical calculations of CR particle trajectories through heliospheric models provide a complementary tool to probe the boundary region properties. A program boosting heliospheric modeling with emphasis on the boundary region and promoting combined CR experimental data analyses from multiple experiments benefits CR astrophysics and provides additional data and tools to explore the interaction between the heliosphere and the local ISM.


Comment: White Paper for the Decadal Survey for Solar and Space Physics (Heliophysics) 2024-2033

Subject: Astrophysics - High Energy Astrophysical Phenomena