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Astron. Astrophys. 358, 759-775 (2000)

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The effect of some solar wind disturbances on the plasma tail of a comet: models and observations

R. Wegmann

Max-Planck-Institut für Astrophysik, 85748 Garching, Germany (ruw@mpa-garching.mpg.de)

Received 22 November 1999 / Accepted 13 January 2000


The effect of several solar wind disturbances on the plasma tail of a comet is studied by means of MHD model calculations. In particular, high speed streams (HSS) and non compressive density enhancements (NCDE) are investigated. Interplanetary shock waves, changes of the flow direction and current sheets are reconsidered. It is shown that HSSs, NCDEs and shocks can cause tail disconnections (DE). The DEs associated with these three solar wind disturbances can be distinguished by their morphology. These differences in appearance can be seen in observed DEs. For some DEs plausible solar wind triggers have been identified by observers. These corroborate the findings of the model calculations.

Key words: comets: general – solar system: general – Sun: solar wind

© European Southern Observatory (ESO) 2000

Online publication: June 8, 2000