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Properties of mass-loading shocks, 2. Magnetohydrodynamics

The one-dimensional magnetohydrodynamics of shocked flows subjected to significant mass loading are considered. Recent observations at comets Giacobini-Zinner and Halley suggest that simple nonreacting MHD is an inappropriate description for active cometary bow shocks. The thickness of the observed cometary shock implies that mass loading represents an important dynamical process within the shock itself, thereby requiring that the Rankine-Hugoniot condition for the mass flux possess a source term. In a formal sense, this renders mass-loading shocks qualitatively similar to combustion shocks, except that mass loading induces the shocked flow to shear. Nevertheless, a large class of stable shocks exist, identified by means of the Lax conditions appropriate to MHD. Thus mass-loading shocks represent a new and interesting class of shocks, which, although found frequently in the solar system, both at the head of comets and, under suitable conditions, upsteam of weakly magnetized and nonmagnetized planets, has not been discussed in any detail. Owing to the shearing of the flow, mass-loading shocks can behave like switch-on shocks regardless of the magnitude of the plasma beta. Thus the behavior of the magnetic field in mass-loading shocks is significantly different from that occurring in nonreacting classical MHD shocks. It is demonstrated that there exist two types of mass-loading fronts for which no classical MHD analogue exists, these being the fast and slow compound mass-loading shocks. These shocks are characterized by an initial deceleration of the fluid flow to either the fast or the slow magnetosonic speed followed by an isentropic expansion to the final decelerated downstream state. Thus these transitions take the flow from a supersonic to a supersonic, although decelerated, downstream state, unlike shocks which occur in classical MHD or gasdynamics. It is possible that such structures have been observed during the Giotto-Halley encounter, and a brief discussion of the appropriate Halley parameters is therefore given, together with a short discussion of the determination of the shock normal from observations. A further interesting new form of mass-loading shock is the “slow-intermediate” shock, a stable shock which possesses many of the properties of intermediate MHD shocks yet which propagates like a slow mode MHD shock. An important property of mass-loading shocks is the large parameter regime (compared with classical MHD) which does not admit simple or stable transitions from a given upstream to a downstream state. This suggests that it is often necessary to construct compound structures consisting of shocks, slip waves, rarefactions, and fast and slow compound waves in order to connect given upstream and downstream states. Thus the Riemann problem is significantly different from that of classical MHD.
Journal Article
Type of thesis
Zank, G. P., Oughton, S., Neubauer, F. M., & Webb, G. M. (1992). Properties of mass-loading shocks, 2. Magnetohydrodynamics. Journal of Geophysical Research, 97(A11), 17051-17074.
© 1992 the American Geophysical Union.