Jacob Heerikhuisen

Associate Professorjacob heerikhuisen


Office: CRH 2037

Phone: 256-961-7318

Email: jacob.heerikhuisen@uah.edu




  • B.S. 1996, University of Waikato, New Zealand
  • M.S. 1997, University of Waikato, New Zealand
  • Ph.D. 2001, University of Waikato, New Zealand


Research Interests

I study the interaction of the solar wind with the interstellar medium using a variety of computational tools developed by our team of heliospheric modelers in the UAH Space Science department and CSPAR. In particular, I have developed a Monte-Carlo code that tracks hydrogen atoms as they pass from interstellar space through the heliosphere. When these charge-exchange with the plasma, momentum and energy source terms are generated that are fed back into the MHD equations that we solve for the plasma. At the same time, some charge-exchange collisions produce energetic neutral atoms (ENAs) that travel large distances through the heliosphere. I work closely with the team from NASA's IBEX satellite which detects ENAs and generates all-sky maps. To relate these 2D maps to the global structure of the heliosphere requires accurate models which we develop. Some of the specific topics I study are:

  • Global heliospheric modeling,
  • ENA flux from the outer heliosphere and interstellar medium,
  • The interaction of atoms heavier than hydrogen with the heliosphere,
  • The dynamics of pickup ions and the corresponding ENAs these generated,
  • The dynamics of interstellar dust inside the heliosphere.


Comparison between IBEX spacecraft data (left) of the unexpected “ribbon” of ENAs, plotted so as to highlight its circularity. Middle and right show simulated ENA maps for two different interstellar magnetic field strengths, suggesting that the field strength is likely less than 4 μG (see paper 1).

ena spectra

ENA spectra computed by graduate student Zirnstein on the basis of assuming a particular breakdown for different populations of pick-up ions, assuming that the total energy and density add up to the MHD-neutral simulation results (see paper 2).


Current graduate students


Anthony DeStefano

Ph.D. expected 2018

Dissertation: "The Interaction of Heavy Interstellar Atoms with the Heliosphere"


Past graduate students


Akito Kawamura

M.S. 2012

Dissertation: "Three Dimensional Test Particle Simulation of Interstellar Oxygen Interacting with the Heliosphere and Analyses for the IBEX Mission".


Joshua Bonner

M.S. 2013

Dissertation: "Detection of Personnel and Small Arms Fire Using Pulse Radar"


Eric Zirnstein

Ph.D. 2014

Dissertation: "Simulating Hydrogen Flux Measurements for the IBEX Mission".


Selected recent publications

  • Local Interstellar Magnetic Field Determined from the Interstellar Boundary Explorer Ribbon, by E J Zirnstein, J Heerikhuisen, H O Funsten, G Livadiotis, D J McComas, N V Pogorelov, Astrophys. J., 818, L18, 2016.
  • Effects of Solar Wind Speed on the Secondary Energetic Neutral Source of the Interstellar Boundary Explorer Ribbon, by E J Zirnstein, J Heerikhuisen, H O Funsten, D J McComas, Astron. Astrophys., 586, A31, 2016.
  • Toward More Realistic Analytic Models of the Heliotail: Incorporating Magnetic Flattening via Distortion Flows by J Kleimann, C Roeken, H Fichtner, J Heerikhuisen, Astrophys. J., 816, p14, 2016.
  • The Heliotail, N V Pogorelov S N Borovikov, J Heerikhuisen, M Zhang, “Astrophys. J., 812, L6, 2015.
  • Structure of the Interstellar Boundary EXplorer Ribbon from Secondary Charge-Exchange at the Solar-Interstellar Interface by E J Zirnstein, J Heerikhuisen, D J McComas, Astrophys. J. Lett., 804, L22, 2015.
  • Simulations of a Dynamic Solar Cycle and its Effects on the Interstellar Boundary Explorer Ribbon and Globally-Distributed Energetic Neutral Atom Flux, by E J Zirnstein, J Heerikhuisen, N V Pogorelov, D J McComas, M A Dayeh, Astrophys. J., 804, p5, 2015.
  • Latitudinal and Energy Dependence of Energetic Neutral Atom Spectral Indices Measured by the Interstellar Boundary Explorer, by M I Desai, F Allegrini, M A Dayeh, H Funsten, J Heerikhuisen, D J McComas, S A Fuselier, N Pogorelov, N A Schwadron, G P Zank, E J Zirnstein, Astrophys. J., 802, p100, 2015.
  • Lyman-alpha Radiation Pressure in the Heliosphere: Results from a 3D Monte Carlo Radiative Transfer Simulation, by B Fayock, G P Zank, J Heerikhuisen,C R Gilbert, K Scherer, Journal of Physics: Conference Series, 642, 2015.
  • Funsten, H.Õ., Bzowski, M., Cai, D.M., Dayeh, M., DeMajistre, R., Frisch, P.C., Heerikhuisen, J., Higdon, D.M., Janzen, P., Larsen, B.A., Livadiotis, G., McComas, D.J., Möbius, E., Reese, C.S., Roelof, E.C., Reisenfeld, D.B., Schwadron, N.A., Zirnstein, E.J. (2015). Symmetry of the IBEX Ribbon of Enhanced Energetic Neutral Atom (ENA) Flux. The Astrophysical Journal, 799, 68.
  • Burlaga, L.F., Ness, N.F., Florinski, V. A., Heerikhuisen, J. (2014). Magnetic Field Fluctuations Observed in the Heliosheath and Interstellar Magnetic Field by Voyager 1 at 115.7-124.9 AU during 2011-2013. The Astrophysical Journal, 792, 134.
  • Pogorelov, N.V., Borovikov, S.N., Heerikhuisen, J., Kim, T.K., Zank, G.P. (2014). Time-dependent Processes in the Sheath Between the Heliospheric Termination Shock and the
  • Zank, G.P., Heerikhuisen, J., Wood, B.E., Pogorelov, N.V., Zirnstein, E., McComas, D.J. (2014). Heliospheric Structure: The Bow Wave and the Hydrogen Wall. In Hu, Q.; Zank, G.P. (Ed.), Outstanding Problems in Heliophysics: From Coronal Heating to the Edge of the Heliosphere (vol. 484, pp. 255).
  • Gamayunov, K., Zhang, M., Pogorelov, N., Heerikhuisen, J., Rassoul, H. (2014). Turbulent Heating of the Core Solar Wind Protons in the Outer Heliosphere. In Hu, Q.; Zank, G.P. (Ed.), Outstanding Problems in Heliophysics: From Coronal Heating to the Edge of the Heliosphere (vol. 484, pp. 49).
  • Heerikhuisen, J., Zirnstein, E. J., and Pogorelov, N. V., κ-distributed protons in the solar wind and their charge-exchange coupling to energetic hydrogen, Journal of Geophysical Research, 120, 1516 (2015).
  • Burlaga, L. F., Ness, N. F., Florinski, V., and Heerikhuisen, J., Magnetic field fluctuations observed in the heliosheath and interstellar magnetic field by Voyager 1 at 115.7-124.9 AU during 2011-2013, Astrophysical Journal, 792, 134 (2014).
  • Heerikhuisen, J., Zirnstein, E. J., Funsten, H. O., Pogorelov, N. V., and Zank, G. P., The effect of new interstellar parameters on the heliosphere and ENAs from the interstellar boundary, Astrophysical Journal, 784, 73 (2014).
  • Zirnstein, E. J., Heerikhuisen, J., Zank, G. P., Pogorelov, N. V., McComas, D. J., and Desai, M. I., Charge-exchange coupling between pickup ions across the heliopause and its effect on energetic neutral hydrogen flux, Astrophysical Journal, 783, 129 (2014).
  • Desai, M. I., Allegrini, F. A., Bzowski, M., Dayeh, M. A., Funsten, H. O., Fuselier, S. A., Heerikhuisen, J., Kubiak, M. A., McComas, D. J., Pogorelov, N. V., Schwadron, N. A., Sokol, J. M., Zank, G. P., and Zirnstein, E. J., Energetic neutral atoms measured by the Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX): Evidence for multiple heliosheath populations, Astrophysical Journal, 780, 11 (2014).
  • Heliopause. In Pogorelov, N.V.; Audit, E.; Zank, G.P. (Ed.), 8th International Conference of Numerical Modeling of Space Plasma Flows (ASTRONUM 2013) (vol. 488, pp. 167).


Recent grants and contracts

  1. Global modeling of ENA fluxes in the heliosphere (NASA NNH08ZDA001N-HGI) - $418,075
  2. Tracking energetic neutral atoms from the inner heliosphere back to the source (NASA NESSF11) - $90,000
  3. Grassroots effort to diversify solar and heliospheric physics (NSF GEO-LSAMP) - $40,001
  4. REU site: solar and heliospheric physics at UAHuntsville and MSFC (NSF Solar Terrestrial) - $353,356