Unusually high magnetic fields in the coma of 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko during its high-activity phase

C. Goetz, Bruce T. Tsurutani, P. Henri, M. Volwerk, E. Behar, Niklas J. T. Edberg, A. Eriksson, R. Goldstein, P. Mokashi, H. Nilsson, I. Richter, A. Wellbrock, K. H. Glassmeier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Aims. On July 3, 2015, an unprecedented increase in the magnetic field magnitude was measured by the Rosetta spacecraft orbiting comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko (67P). This increase was accompanied by large variations in magnetic field and ion and electron density and energy. To our knowledge, this unusual event marks the highest magnetic field ever measured in the plasma environment of a comet. Our goal here is to examine possible physical causes for this event, and to explain this reaction of the cometary plasma and magnetic field and its trigger.

Methods. We used observations from the entire Rosetta Plasma Consortium as well as energetic particle measurements from the Standard Radiation Monitor on board Rosetta to characterize the event. To provide context for the solar wind at the comet, observations at Earth were compared with simulations of the solar wind.

Results. We find that the unusual behavior of the plasma around 67P is of solar wind origin and is caused by the impact of an interplanetary coronal mass ejection, combined with a corotating interaction region. This causes the magnetic field to pile up and increase by a factor of six to about 300 nT compared to normal values of the enhanced magnetic field at a comet. This increase is only partially accompanied by an increase in plasma density and energy, indicating that the magnetic field is connected to different regions of the coma.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberA38
Number of pages9
JournalAstronomy & Astrophysics
Early online date20 Sept 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2019
Externally publishedYes


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