The mechanism responsible for accelerating electrons and protons and heating the plasma in shock waves produced in rare ionized gas (plasma) has been discovered by scientists from the Space Research Center of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw and the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow.
According to the CBK PAN Bulletin, shock waves, or acoustic shocks, occur in the Earth’s atmosphere when a fast-moving object, such as a jet plane, is exceeded at will. In space, it shows state appearances and is the medium with the lowest plasma content, which generally moves faster than magnetic sound to avoid the effects of a stationary shock, called a plasma shock.
The best-known cosmic shock is the magnetospheric shock, which occurs at a distance of thirteen Earth rays in the solar wind flowing at 500 km/s from the Sun.
The discovered mechanism is associated with deterministic chaos caused by strong changes in magnetic and electric fields that randomly change the trajectories of charged particles.
Project leader Prof. “The breakthrough in understanding these processes has been made possible thanks to the use of measurements from the constellation of four satellites that make up the NASA-led Multiscale Magnetospheric mission,” explains Krzysztof Stasiewicz.
The magnetospheric shock is the first barrier to stop the solar wind. Without a magnetospheric shield, the solar wind causes the “leakage” and disappearance of the atmosphere, which occurs in Mercury and Mars.
During the explosion of supernova stars, stronger shocks occur, in which elements heavier than iron are formed, for example, copper, zinc, krypton. Shocks also accelerate the particles that make up cosmic rays to very high energies.
“The world’s best physicists have worked (unsuccessfully) on the problem of accelerating particles on shocks, proving the importance of this discovery” – Prof. Zbigniew Klos.
More information on CBK PAN website.