Space Physics pp 119-142 | Cite as

Shock Waves

  • May-Britt Kallenrode
Chapter
Part of the Advanced Texts in Physics book series (ADTP)

Abstract

A shock is a discontinuity separating two different regimes in an otherwise continuous medium. It is associated with something moving faster than the signal speed in the medium: a shock front separates the Mach cone of a supersonic jet from the ambient, undisturbed air. If a duck is paddling faster through a pond than a water wave can propagate, a shock separates the wake from the undisturbed water. In both cases the disturbance and with it the shock is moving, and thus the shock is called a traveling shock. Standing shocks also form: in a river, a shock forms in front of the bridge pier where the fast stream suddenly is slowed down. In space plasmas, both kinds of shocks exist: mass ejections propagating from the Sun through interplanetary space drive traveling shocks. The supersonic solar wind is slowed down at planetary magnetospheres, forming the bow shock, a standing shock wave. At these discontinuities the properties of the medium change dramatically. Combined with different wave modes in plasmas and the collisionless nature of the rarefied space plasmas, different types of shocks can develop. Shocks also play an important role in the acceleration of energetic particles. Shock waves in supernovae accelerate the galactic cosmic radiation, planetary bow shocks accelerate particles, as do shocks in front of coronal mass ejections.

Keywords

Entropy Convection Agate Flare Pier 

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • May-Britt Kallenrode
    • 1
  1. 1.FB IV — UmweltwissenschaftenUniversität LüneburgLüneburgGermany

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