Theory and Simulation of Cometary Shocks

  1. Alan Johnstone
  1. N. Omidi1 and
  2. D. Winske2

Published Online: 26 MAR 2013

DOI: 10.1029/GM061p0037

Cometary Plasma Processes

Cometary Plasma Processes

How to Cite

Omidi, N. and Winske, D. (1991) Theory and Simulation of Cometary Shocks, in Cometary Plasma Processes (ed A. Johnstone), American Geophysical Union, Washington, D. C.. doi: 10.1029/GM061p0037

Author Information

  1. 1

    Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, California 92093

  2. 2

    Applied Theoretical Physics Division, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, New Mexico 87545

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 26 MAR 2013
  2. Published Print: 1 JAN 1991

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9780875900278

Online ISBN: 9781118663660



  • Comets;
  • Space plasmas;
  • Astrophysics


In this paper recent kinetic simulation studies of cometary bow shocks are reviewed. Cometary shocks are formed due to solar wind mass loading by water group cometary ions. This process is kinetic in nature and varies as a function of the angle between the solar wind flow velocity and the interplanetary magnetic field, as do the properties of cometary shocks. For perpendicular and parallel orientations, quasi-steady shocks with dissipation scales on the order of proton inertial length form. At oblique orientations, no steady shocks are formed; instead, the transition from supersonic to subsonic flow takes place through multiple shocklets (steepened magnetosonic waves) which are generated by the pickup ions via the resonant electromagnetic ion beam instability. This new, time dependent model of cometary bow shocks is further investigated using a large scale kinetic simulation and is compared to the observations at Comet Giacobini-Zinner.