Presentation #304.06 in the session Understanding the Formation and Evolution of Ambient and Transient Solar Wind Outflow.
In the lower solar coronal regions where the magnetic field is dominant, the Alfvén speed is much higher than the wind speed. In contrast, the near-Earth solar wind is strongly super-Alfvénic, i.e., the wind speed greatly exceeds the Alfvén speed. The transition between these regimes is classically described as the “Alfvén point” but may in fact occur in a distributed Alfvén critical region. NASA’s Parker Solar Probe (PSP) mission has entered this region, as it follows a series of orbits that gradually approach more closely to the Sun. During its 8th solar encounters, at a distance of about 16 solar radii from the Sun, PSP sampled three extended periods in which the solar wind speed was measured to be smaller than the local Alfvén speed. These are the first in situ detections of sub-Alfvénic solar wind in the inner heliosphere by PSP. We discuss the properties of these recently observed sub-Alfvénic solar wind, which may provide important previews of the physical processes operating at lower altitude.