Imperial College Space and Atmospheric Physics

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The Heliospheric Magnetic Field

The heliospheric magnetic field (HMF) is an important component of the heliospheric medium. It has been the subject of extensive studies for the past thirty five years. There is a very large observational data base, mostly from the vantage point of the ecliptic plane, but now also from the solar polar regions, from the Ulysses mission. This review aims to present its most important large scale characteristics. A key to understand the HMF is to understand the source functions of the solar wind and magnetic fields close to the sun. The development of new modelling techniques for determining the extent and geometry of the open magnetic field regions in the corona, the sources of the solar wind and the HMF has provided a new insight into the variability of the source functions. These are now reasonably well understood for the state of the corona near solar minimum. The HMF at low-to-medium heliolatitudes is dominated, near solar minimum, by the Corotating Interaction Regions (CIRs) which arise from the interaction of alternating slow and fast solar wind streams, and which, in turn, interact in the outer heliosphere to form the large scale Merged Interaction Regions. The radial component of the HMF is independent of heliolatitude; the average direction is well organised by the Parker geometry, but with wide distributions around the mean, due, at high latitudes, to the presence of large amplitude, Alfvénic fluctuations. The HMF at solar maximum is less well understood, due in part to the complexity of the solar source functions, and partly to the lack of three dimensional observations which Ulysses is planned to remedy at the next solar maximum. It is suggested that the in-ecliptic conditions in the HMF, largely determined by the dynamics of transients (Coronal Mass Ejections) may also be found at high latitudes, due to the wide latitude distribution of the CMEs.


Recent Publications:

Balogh, A., The heliospheric magnetic field, Space Sci. Rev., 78, 15-28, 1996.

Balogh, A., Magnetic fields in the inner heliosphere, Space Sci. Rev., 83, 93-104, 1998

Balogh, A., and Forsyth, R.J., The results of the Ulysses mission: A survey of the heliosphere in three dimensions, in Proc. "A Crossroads for European Solar and Heliospheric Physics", ESA SP-417, p.45-54, 1998.

Balogh, A. and Riley, P., Overview of heliospheric shocks, in Cosmic Winds and the Heliosphere, edited by J.R. Jokipii and C.P. Sonett, University of Arizona Press, Tucson, 359-387, 1997.


  • For further information, go to Ulysses



  • André Balogh 18 December 1998.