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Interaction of the solar wind with comets: a Rosetta perspective.


ABSTRACT: The Rosetta mission provides an unprecedented possibility to study the interaction of comets with the solar wind. As the spacecraft accompanies comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko from its very low-activity stage through its perihelion phase, the physics of mass loading is witnessed for various activity levels of the nucleus. While observations at other comets provided snapshots of the interaction region and its various plasma boundaries, Rosetta observations allow a detailed study of the temporal evolution of the innermost cometary magnetosphere. Owing to the short passage time of the solar wind through the interaction region, plasma instabilities such as ring--beam and non-gyrotropic instabilities are of less importance during the early life of the magnetosphere. Large-amplitude ultra-low-frequency (ULF) waves, the 'singing' of the comet, is probably due to a modified ion Weibel instability. This instability drives a cross-field current of implanted cometary ions unstable. The initial pick-up of these ions causes a major deflection of the solar wind protons. Proton deflection, cross-field current and the instability induce a threefold structure of the innermost interaction region with the characteristic Mach cone and Whistler wings as stationary interaction signatures as well as the ULF waves representing the dynamic aspect of the interaction.This article is part of the themed issue 'Cometary science after Rosetta'.

SUBMITTER: Glassmeier KH 

PROVIDER: S-EPMC5454225 | BioStudies | 2017-01-01T00:00:00Z

SECONDARY ACCESSION(S): 377Z

REPOSITORIES: biostudies

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