Solar wind protons in the diamagnetic cavity at comet 67P/Churyumov‐Gerasimenko

Charlotte Goetz*, Lucie Scharr, Cyril Simon Wedlund, Anja Moeslinger, Hans Nilsson, Elias Odelstad, Matthew G .G. T. Taylor, Martin Volwerk

*Corresponding author for this work

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The plasma environment at a comet can be divided into different regions with distinct plasma characteristics. Two such regions are the solar wind ion cavity, which refers to the part of the outer coma that does not contain any solar wind ions anymore; and the diamagnetic cavity, which is the region of unmagnetized plasma in the innermost coma. From theory and previous observations, it was thought that under usual circumstances no solar wind ion should be observable near or inside of the diamagnetic cavity. For the first time, we report on five observations that show that protons near solar wind energies can also be found inside the diamagnetic cavity. We characterise these proton signatures, where and when they occur, and discuss possible mechanisms that could lead to protons penetrating the inner coma and traversing the diamagnetic cavity boundary. By understanding these observations we hope to better understand the interaction region of the comet with the solar wind under non-standard conditions. The protons detected inside the diamagnetic cavity have directions and energies consistent with protons of solar wind origin. The five events occur only at intermediate gas production rates and low cometocentric distances. Charge-transfer reactions, high solar wind dynamic pressure and a neutral gas outburst can be ruled out as causes. We suggest that the anomalous appearance of protons in the diamagnetic cavity is due to a specific solar wind configuration where the solar wind velocity is parallel to the interplanetary magnetic field, thus inhibiting mass-loading and deflection.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2022JA031249
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics
Issue number4
Early online date3 Apr 2023
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2023

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