- Conference date: 17–22 June 2012
- Location: Big Island, Hawaii
The plasma tails of comets have been used as probes of the solar wind for many years, and well before direct solar wind measurements. Now, analyses utilizing the much greater regularity and extent of comet tails imaged from space detail outward solar wind flow much better than was previously possible. These analyses mark the location of the solar wind flow in three-dimensions over time much as do in-situ measurements. Data from comet plasma tails using coronagraphs and heliospheric white-light imagers provide a view closer to the Sun than where spacecraft have ventured to date. These views show that this flow is chaotic and highly variable, and not the benign regular outward motion of a quiescent plasma. While this is no surprise to those who study and characterize the solar wind in situ or use remotely-sensed interplanetary scintillation (IPS) techniques, these spacecraft images provide a visualization of this as never-before possible. Here we summarize the results of an analysis that determines solar wind velocity from multiple comet tails that were observed by the Solar Mass Ejection Imager (SMEI) and also by the inner Heliospheric Imager (HI) on board the Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory Ahead (STEREOA) spacecraft. Finally, we present results using a similar analysis that measures this same behavior using coronagraph observations in the low corona.
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