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Published July 2009 | Published
Journal Article Open

Short-period variability in the galactic cosmic ray intensity: High statistical resolution observations and interpretation around the time of a Forbush decrease in August 2006


On 20 August 2006 a Forbush decrease observed at Polar in the Earth's magnetosphere was also seen at the INTEGRAL spacecraft outside the magnetosphere during a very active time in the solar wind. High-resolution energetic particle data from ACE SIS, the Polar high-sensitivity telescope, and INTEGRAL's Ge detector saturation rate, which measures the galactic cosmic ray (GCR) background with a threshold of similar to 200 MeV, show similar, short-period GCR variations in and around the Forbush decrease. Focusing upon the GCR intensity within a 3-day interval from 19 August 2006 to 21 August 2006 reveals many intensity variations in the GCR on a variety of time scales and amplitudes. These intensity variations are greater than the 3 sigma error in all the data sets used. The fine structures in the GCR intensities along with the Forbush decrease are propagated outward from ACE to the Earth with very little change. The solar wind speed stays relatively constant during these periods, indicating that parcels of solar wind are transporting the GCR population outward in the heliosphere. This solar wind convection of GCR fine structure is observed for both increases and decreases in GCR intensity, and the fine structure increases and decreases are bracketed by solar wind magnetic field discontinuities associated with interplanetary coronal mass ejection (ICME) magnetosheath regions, clearly seen as discontinuous rotations of the field components at ACE and at Wind. Interestingly, the electron heat flux shows different flux tube connectivity also associated with the different regions of the ICME and magnetosheath. Gosling et al. (2004) first discussed the idea that solar energetic particle intensities commonly undergo dispersionless modulation in direct association with discontinuous changes in the solar wind electron strahl. The observations show that the intensity levels in the GCR flux may undergo a similar partitioning, possibly because of the different magnetic field regions having differing magnetic topologies.

Additional Information

© 2009. American Geophysical Union. Received 1 October 2008; accepted 16 March 2009; published 21 July 2009. This work was supported under the Aerospace Corporation's Independent Research and Development Program. The work at Caltech was supported by NASA under grant NNX08AI11G. The authors would like to thank the INTEGRAL team for their assistance and for supplying the INTEGRAL data. Amitava Bhattacharjee thanks the reviewers for their assistance in evaluating this paper.

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