MEASUREMENT OF THE ABUNDANCE OF HELIUM-3 IN THE SUN AND IN THE LOCAL INTERSTELLAR CLOUD WITH SWICS ON ULYSSES

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Abstract

The abundance of 3He in the present day local interstellar cloud (LIC) and in the sun has important implications for the study of galactic evolution and for estimating the production of light nuclei in the early universe. Data from the Solar Wind Ion Composition Spectrometer (SWICS) on Ulysses is used to measure the isotopic ratio of helium (3He/4He = Γ) both in the solar wind and the local interstellar cloud. For the solar wind, the unique high-latitude orbit of Ulysses allows us to study this ratio in the slow and highly dynamic wind in the ecliptic plane as well as the steady high-latitude wind of the polar coronal holes. The 3He+/4He+ ratio in the local cloud is derived from the isotopic ratio of pickup helium measured in the high-speed solar wind. In the LIC the ratio is found to be (2.48−0.62+0.68) × 10−4 with the 1-σ uncertainty resulting almost entirely from statistical error. In the solar wind, Γ is determined with great statistical accuracy but shows systematic differences between fast and slow solar wind streams. The slow wind ratio is variable. Its weighted average value (4.08 ± 0.25) × 10−4 is, within uncertainties, in agreement with the Apollo SWC results. The high wind ratio is less variable but smaller. The average Γ in the fast wind is (3.3 ± 0.3) × 10−4.

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