- Bow shock
A bow shock is a boundary between a
magnetosphereand an ambient medium. For stars, this is typically the boundary between their stellar windand the interstellar medium.
In a planetary
magnetosphere, the bow shock is the boundary at which the speed of the solar windabruptly drops as a result of its approach to the magnetopause. The best-studied example of a bow shock is that occurring where the solar wind encounters the Earth's magnetopause, although bow shocks occur around all magnetized planets. The Earth's bow shock is about 100-1000 km thick and located about 90,000 km from the Earth.
The defining criterion is that the bulk velocity of the fluid (in this case, the solar wind) drops from "supersonic" to "subsonic", where the speed of sound in
plasma physicsis defined as
where "cs" is the speed of sound, is the ratio of
specific heats, "p" is the pressure, and is the density of the plasma.
The particles making up the solar wind follow spiral paths along magnetic field lines. The velocity of each particle as it gyrates around a field line can be treated similarly to a thermal velocity in an ordinary gas, and in an ordinary gas, the mean thermal velocity is roughly the speed of sound. At the bow shock, the bulk forward velocity of the wind (which can be seen as the velocity of the points on the field lines about which the particles gyrate) drops below the speed at which the particles are corkscrewing.
It is hypothesised that the
Sunalso has a bow shock as it travels through the interstellar medium, as shown in the figure. This will occur if the interstellar medium is moving supersonically "towards" the Sun, since the sun's solar wind is moving supersonically "away" from the Sun. The point where the interstellar medium becomes subsonic is the bow shock; the point where the interstellar medium and solar wind pressures balance is at the heliopause; the point where the solar wind becomes subsonic is the termination shock. According to Robert Nemiroff and Jerry Bonnell of NASA, the solar bow shock may lie at around [http://antwrp.gsfc.nasa.gov/apod/ap020624.html 230 AU] from the Sun.
Bow shocks are also a common feature in
Herbig Haro objects, in which a much stronger collimated outflow of gas and dust from the star interacts with the interstellar medium, producing bright bow shocks that are visible at optical wavelengths.
Recently, a far infrared bow shock has been detected near the AGB star
R Hydrae. [ [http://cdsads.u-strasbg.fr/cgi-bin/nph-data_query?bibcode=2006ApJ...648L..39U&db_key=AST&link_type=ABSTRACT&high=45ba3a9f6d12619 Detection of a Far-Infrared Bow Shock Nebula around R Hya: The First MIRIAD Results] ]
References and further reading
*Kivelson MG, Russell CT. 1995. "Introduction to Space Physics". Cambridge University Press. (p. 129)
*Cravens, TE. 1997. "Physics of Solar System Plasmas". Cambridge University Press. (p. 142)
* [http://antwrp.gsfc.nasa.gov/apod/image/0011/bzcam_wiyn.gifBow shock image (BZ Cam)]
* [http://antwrp.gsfc.nasa.gov/apod/image/0010/gcenter2_gemini_big.jpgBow shock image (IRS8)]
* [http://www.eso.org/outreach/press-rel/pr-1997/phot-02-97.jpgBow shock image (HD77581)]
* [http://imgsrc.hubblesite.org/hu/db/2002/05/images/a/formats/large_web.jpgBow shock image (LL Ori)]
* [http://www.atnf.csiro.au/pasa/17_1/cairns/paper/node1.html#fig3 Good diagram from a research paper on shocks]
* [http://www.dartmouth.edu/~hrm/R/heliosphere.html More on the "Voyagers"]
* [http://www-pw.physics.uiowa.edu/space-audio/sounds/jovbow.wav Hear Jovian bow shock from the Uni. of Iowa]
* [http://www.physorg.com/news98367923.html Cluster spacecraft makes a shocking discovery (Planetary Bow Shock)]
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Look at other dictionaries:
bow|shock — bow shock, or bow|shock «BOW SHOK», noun. the shock wave caused by the impact of a planet s magnetic field on solar wind: »About 20 minutes before the spacecraft reached its closest distance to Mercury (about 466 miles), there were very clear… … Useful english dictionary
bow shock — bow′ shock [[t]baʊ[/t]] n. astron. the shock front along which the solar wind encounters a planet s magnetic field • Etymology: 1945–50 … From formal English to slang
Bow Shock — Heliosphäre unter Einfluss des interstellaren Gases. Eingezeichnet sind Voyager 1 und Voyager 2. Die Heliosphäre ist eine Blase um unser Sonnensystem herum, welche auf Grund der Verdrängung der interstellaren Materie durch den Sonnenwind besteht … Deutsch Wikipedia
bow shock — ˈbau̇ noun Etymology: so called from a similarity to the wave pattern produced at the bow of a ship : the shock wave formed by the collision of the supersonic charged particles of a stellar wind with another medium (as the magnetosphere of a… … Useful english dictionary
bow shock — /bow/, Astron. the shock front along which the solar wind encounters a planet s magnetic field. [1945 50] * * * … Universalium
bow shock — noun Date: 1950 the shock wave formed by the collision of a stellar wind with another medium (as the magnetosphere of a planet) … New Collegiate Dictionary
bow shock — noun /ˈbaʊʃɑk/ the region of the magnetosphere in which the solar wind slows from supersonic to subsonic … Wiktionary
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