A Fully Kinetic Perspective of Electron Acceleration around a Weakly Outgassing Comet

Andrey Divin, Jan Deca, Anders Eriksson, Pierre Henri, Giovanni Lapenta, Vyacheslav Olshevsky, Stefano Markidis

Research output

1 Citation (Scopus)


The cometary mission Rosetta has shown the presence of higher-than-expected suprathermal electron fluxes. In this study, using 3D fully kinetic electromagnetic simulations of the interaction of the solar wind with a comet, we constrain the kinetic mechanism that is responsible for the bulk electron energization that creates the suprathermal distribution from the warm background of solar wind electrons. We identify and characterize the magnetic field-aligned ambipolar electric field that ensures quasi-neutrality and traps warm electrons. Solar wind electrons are accelerated to energies as high as 50-70 eV close to the comet nucleus without the need for wave-particle or turbulent heating mechanisms. We find that the accelerating potential controls the parallel electron temperature, total density, and (to a lesser degree) the perpendicular electron temperature and the magnetic field magnitude. Our self-consistent approach enables us to better understand the underlying plasma processes that govern the near-comet plasma environment.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberL33
JournalAstrophysical Journal Letters
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2020

Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science

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