Overview of the structure and dynamics of the interaction between solar wind and cometary plasmas after the Rosetta Mission

Pierre Henri
LPC2E, CNRS, Orléans, France - 3 avenue recherche scientifique, 45000 Orléans, France

Cometary induced magnetospheres are archetypes of mass-loaded, partially collisional, partially ionised plasmas, characterised by a wide range of varying plasma parameters, where the interplay between collisionless and collisional processes are essential to give a global picture of the plasma dynamics. While several cometary fly-by missions have enabled to pave the way towards the exploration of cometary environments, the Rosetta mission was the first space mission to escort a comet along its orbit around the Sun. During more than two years (2014-2016), the Rosetta orbiter has monitored comet 67P/CG and its ionised environment, at heliocentric distances ranging from 1.2 to 3.8 AU accounting for a variety of cometary activity, and at distances from the comet nucleus ranging from 1500 km down to the comet nucleus surface itself during the Rosetta Orbiter’s final descent. This was the first extensive, long-term, in situ survey of the expanding ionosphere of a comet which interaction with the solar wind forms an induced magnetosphere. In this context, I will review the results obtained from in situ observations made by the different instruments of the Rosetta Plasma Consortium (RPC), combined to state-of-art numerical modelings of cometary plasma environments, to give an overview of the current understanding of the structure and dynamics of a cometary induced magnetosphere. Among different mechanisms, I will show how plasma waves traces the signature of plasma mixing at different interfaces (e.g., electron temperature discontinuities, strong density gradients) and describe some acceleration mechanisms at play in the inner cometary plasma.