The Encounter of the Parker Solar Probe and a Comet-like Object near the Sun: Model Predictions and Measurements

Jiansen He, Bo Cui, Liping Yang, Chuanpeng Hou, Lei Zhang, Wing Huen Ip, Ying Dong Jia, Chuanfei Dong, Die Duan, Qiugang Zong, Stuart D. Bale, Marc Pulupa, John W. Bonnell, Thierry Dudok De Wit, Keith Goetz, Peter R. Harvey, Robert J. MacDowall, David M. Malaspina

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3 Scopus citations


The Parker Solar Probe (PSP) aims to explore the nascent solar wind close to the Sun. Meanwhile, PSP is also expected to encounter small objects like comets and asteroids. In this work, we survey the ephemerides to find the chance of a recent encounter and then model the interaction between released dusty plasmas and solar wind plasmas. On 2019 September 2, a comet-like object, the 322P/Solar and Heliosphere Observatory, just passed its perihelion flying to a heliocentric distance of 0.12 au and swept by PSP at a relative distance as close as 0.025 au. We present the dynamics of the dust particles released from 322P, forming a curved dust tail. Along the path of PSP in the simulated inner heliosphere, the states of plasma and magnetic field are sampled and illustrated, with the magnetic field sequences from simulation results being compared directly with the in situ measurements from PSP. Through the comparison, we suggest that 322P might be at a deficient activity level releasing limited dusty plasmas on its way to becoming a "rock comet."We also present images of solar wind streamers as recorded by the Wide-field Imager for Solar Probe Plus, showing an indication of dust bombardment for the images superposed with messy trails. We observe from the Large Angle and Spectrometric Coronagraph that 322P was transiting from a dimming region to a relatively bright streamer during its perihelion passage, and perform a simulation to confirm that 322P was flying from relatively faster to slower solar wind streams, modifying the local plasma states of the streams.

Original languageEnglish
Article number7
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - 20 Mar 2021


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