Shock interactions with magnetized interstellar clouds. I. Steady shocks hitting nonradiative clouds

Mordecai Mark Mac Low, Christopher F. Mckee, Richard I. Klein, James McLellan Stone, Michael L. Norman

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32 Scopus citations


We study the interaction of a steady, planar shock with a nonradiative, spherical, interstellar cloud threaded by a uniform magnetic field. For strong shocks, the sonic Mach number scales out, so two parameters determine the evolution: the ratio of cloud to intercloud density, and the Alfvén Mach number. We focus on the case with initial field parallel to the shock velocity, though we also present one model with field perpendicular to the velocity. Even with 100 zones per cloud radius, we find that the magnetic field structure converges only at early times. However, we can draw three conclusions from our work. First, our results suggest that the inclusion of a field in equipartition with the preshock medium can prevent the complete destruction of the cloud found in the field-free case recently considered by Klein, McKee, & Colella. Second, the interaction of the shock with the cloud can amplify the magnetic field in some regions up to equipartition with the post-shock thermal pressure. In the parallel-field case, the shock preferentially amplifies the parallel component of the field, creating a "flux rope," a linear structure of concentrated magnetic field. The flux rope dominates the volume of amplified field, so that laminar, rather than turbulent, amplification is dominant in this case. Third, the presence of the cloud enhances the production of X-ray and synchrotron emission. The X-ray emission peaks early, during the initial passage of the shock over the cloud, while the synchrotron emission peaks later, when the flow sweeps magnetic field onto the axis between the cloud and the main shock.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)757-777
Number of pages21
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Oct 1 1994

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • Hydrodynamics
  • ISM: magnetic fields
  • MHD
  • Shock waves
  • Supernova remnants


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