Letter | Published:

Interplanetary Magnetic Fields as a Cause of Comet Tails

Naturevolume 199page580 (1963) | Download Citation



IT has been generally recognized recently that the historic explanation of comet tails in terms of solar radiation pressure by either light or particles is impossible. Solar light pressure has been found to be insufficient by several orders of magnitude. Coulomb collisions or acceleration coupled with charge transfer by protons in the solar wind have also been shown by Biermann and Treffitz1, in particular, to be grossly insufficient processes to account for comet tails streaming within a cylinder of small diameter and great length away from the Sun. It is the purpose of this communication to point out that the gases in cometary comas will be efficiently ionized by the solar wind of ionized hydrogen embedded in a magnetic field2–4 and that an interplanetary magnetic field will couple the cometary gas to the solar wind.

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    Biermann, L., and Treffitz, E., Z. Astrophys., 49, 111 (1960).

  2. 2

    Biermann, L., Mém. Soc. Roy. Sci. Liège, Ser. 4, 13, 291 (1953).

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    Biermann, L., Nuovo Cimento, Supp. 13, 189 (1959).

  4. 4

    Neugebauer, M., and Snyder, C., Science, 138, 1095 (1962). Coleman, jun., P. J., Davis, jun., L., Smith, E. J., and Sonnett, C. P., Science, 138, 1099 (1962).

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    Heubner, W. F., Revs. Mod. Phys., 33, 498 (1961).

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    Alfvén, H., Rev. Mod. Phys., 32, 710 (1960).

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    Beard, D. B., J. Geophys. Res. (to be published).

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  1. Goddard Space Flight Center, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Greenbelt, Maryland

    •  & M. PAUL NAKADA
  2. National Academy of Sciences—National Research Council Research Associate with N.A.S.A. Permanent address: Physics Department, University of California, Davis



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