Plasma fluctuations and large‐scale mixing near comet Giacobini‐Zinner

D. N. Baker, W. C. Feldman, S. P. Gary, D. J. McComas, J. Middleditch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Low‐pass filtered data from the ICE electron spectrometer are used to examine relationships between plasma densities, flow speeds, flow directions, and temperatures at distances within ∼105 km of the Comet Giacobini‐Zinner nucleus. The sheath/transition region is characterized by electron temperatures of ∼4 × 105K but with flow speeds and densities that commonly vary by factors of three or more. The largest amplitude density spikes often have significant flow changes associated with them, but a consistent pattern (as might accompany cometary rays, for example) is not found. Power spectral analyses in and near the sheath/transition regions show that density fluctuation levels are enhanced at all detectable frequencies from ∼0 to 21 mHz, consistent with strong density fluctuations on all measured time scales. Marginally significant power peaks are seen at periods of ∼4 min on the inbound pass and at ∼2 min on the outbound pass. Mechanisms such as amplification of convected ion pick‐up waves and cometary rays for producing the large plasma variations are discussed. It is also suggested that a Rayleigh‐Taylor driven mixing mechanism at a mass loading boundary ∼105 km from the nucleus may be operative.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)271-274
Number of pages4
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1986
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


Dive into the research topics of 'Plasma fluctuations and large‐scale mixing near comet Giacobini‐Zinner'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this