Periodic comets move around the Sun on elliptical orbits. As such comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko (hereafter 67P) spends a portion of time in the inner solar system where it is exposed to increased solar insolation. Therefore given the change in heliocentric distance, in case of 67P from aphelion at 5.68 AU to perihelion at ~1.24 AU, the comet’s activity—the production of neutral gas and dust—undergoes significant variations. As a consequence, during the inbound portion, the mass loading of the solar wind increases and extends to larger spatial scales. This paper investigates how this interaction changes the character of the plasma environment of the comet by means of multifluid MHD simulations. The multifluid MHD model is capable of separating the dynamics of the solar wind ions and the pick-up ions created through photoionization and electron impact ionization in the coma of the comet. We show how two of the major boundaries, the bow shock and the diamagnetic cavity, form and develop as the comet moves through the inner solar system. Likewise for 67P, although most likely shifted back in time with respect to perihelion passage, this process is reversed on the outbound portion of the orbit. The presented model herein is able to reproduce some of the key features previously only accessible to particle-based models that take full account of the ions’ gyration. The results shown herein are in decent agreement to these hybrid-type kinetic simulations.
- Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko
- Comet–solar wind interaction
- Multifluid MHD
- Numerical simulation