Solar Wind Dynamics within The Atmosphere of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko

University dissertation from Luleå : Luleå University of Technology

Abstract: In this thesis, we explore the dynamics of the solar wind as it perme-ates and flows through a tenuous cometary atmosphere, with a focuson the interaction observed at comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko.Seven comets had already been visited by nine different probes when the European spacecraft Rosetta reached comet Churyumov–Gerasimenko in August 2014. The mission was however the first to orbit its host comet, which it did for a total duration of more than two years, corre-sponding to a large part of the comet’s orbit around the Sun. This en-abled to study how the dynamics of the plasma environment evolvedas the comet itself was transformed from one of the smallest obstaclesto the solar wind in the Solar System when far away from the Sun, toa well-established magnetosphere at perihelion.Most of our efforts tackle the early part of this transformation, when the creation of new-born cometary ions starts to induce significant disturbances to the incident flow. During this stage, a kinetic descrip-tion of the interaction is necessary, as the system of interest cannot be reduced to a hydrodynamic problem. This contrasts with the situation closer to the Sun, where a fluid treatment can be used, at Churyumov–Gerasimenko as well as at previously visited comets.Rosetta was not a mission dedicated to plasma studies, however. It directly translates into a limited spatial coverage of the cometary plasma environment, which by its nature extends over several spatial scales. An approach solely based on the analysis of in-situ data cannot properly address the major questions on the nature and physics of the plasma environment of Churyumov–Gerasimenko. This thesis there-fore largely exploits the experimental–analytical–numerical triad of approaches. In Chapters 3 and 4 we propose simple models of the ion dynamics and of the cometary plasma environment, and these are tested against experimental and numerical data. Used together,they give a global description of the solar wind ion dynamics through the cometary atmosphere, that we explore in the 2-dimensional and 3-dimensional cases (Chapter 5). In Chapter 6, we propose a view onthe interaction and its fluid aspects when closer to the Sun.

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