Warm protons at comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko - implications for the infant bow shock

Charlotte Goetz, Herbert Gunell, Fredrik Johansson, Kristie LLera, Hans Nilsson, Karl-Heinz Glassmeier, Matthew G.G.T. Taylor

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The plasma around comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko showed remarkable variability throughout the entire Rosetta mission. Plasma boundaries such as the diamagnetic cavity, solar wind ion cavity and infant bow shock separate regions with distinct plasma parameters from each other. Here, we focus on a particular feature in the plasma: warm, slow solar wind protons. We investigate this particular proton population further by focusing on the proton behaviour and surveying all of the Rosetta comet phase data. We find over 300 events where Rosetta transited from a region with fast, cold protons into a region with warm, slow protons. We investigate the properties of the plasma and magnetic field at this boundary and the location where it can be found. We find that the protons are preferentially detected at intermediate gas production rates with a slight trend towards larger cometocentric distances for higher gas production rates. The events can mostly be found in the positive convective electric field hemisphere. These results agree well with simulations of the infant bow shock (IBS), an asymmetric structure in the plasma environment previously detected on only 2 d during the comet phase. The properties of the plasma on both sides of this structure are harder to constrain, but there is a trend towards higher electron flux, lower magnetic field, higher magnetic field power spectral density and higher density in the region that contains the warm protons. This is in partial agreement with the previous IBS definitions; however, it also indicates that the plasma and this structure are highly non-stationary. For future research, Comet Interceptor, with its multi-point measurements, can help to disentangle the spatial and temporal effects and give more clarity on the influence of changing upstream conditions on the movement of boundaries in this unusual environment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)379-396
Number of pages18
JournalAnnales Geophysicae
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 5 May 2021
Externally publishedYes


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