Contact and pressure balance structures in two-fluid cosmic-ray hydrodynamics

G. M. Webb, M. Brio, G. P. Zank, T. Story

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


The role of cosmic-ray-modified contact discontinuities and pressure balance structures in two-fluid cosmic-ray hydrodynamics in one Cartesian space dimension are investigated by means of analytic and numerical solution examples, as well as by weakly nonlinear asymptotics. The fundamental wave modes of the two-fluid cosmic-ray hydrodynamic equations in the long-wavelength limit consist of the backward and forward propagating cosmic-ray-modified sound waves, with sound speed dependent on both the cosmic-ray and thermal gas pressures; the contact discontinuity; and a pressure balance mode in which the sum of the cosmic ray and thermal gas pressure perturbations is zero. The pressure balance mode, like the contact discontinuity is advected with the background flow. The interaction of the pressure balance mode with the contact discontinuity is investigated by means of the method of multiple scales. The thermal gas and cosmic-ray pressure perturbations satisfy a linear diffusion equation, and entropy perturbations arising from nonisentropic initial conditions for the thermal gas are frozen into the fluid. The contact discontinuity and pressure balance eigenmodes both admit nonzero entropy perturbations in the thermal gas, whereas the cosmic-ray-modified sound waves are isentropic. The total entropy perturbation is shared between the contact discontinuity and pressure balance eigenmodes, and examples are given in which there is a transfer of entropy between the two modes. In particular, N-wave type density disturbances are obtained which arise as a result of the entropy transfer between the two modes. A weakly nonlinear geometric optics perturbation expansion is used to study the long timescale evolution of the short-wavelength entropy wave and the thermal gas sound waves in a slowly varying, large-scale background flow. The weakly nonlinear geometric optics expansion is also used to generalize previous studies of a squeezing instability for short-wavelength sound waves in the two fluid model, by including a weakly nonlinear wave steepening term that leads to shock formation, as well as the effect of long time and space dependence of the background flow. Implications of cosmic-ray-modified pressure balance structures and contact discontinuities in models of the interaction of traveling interplanetary shocks, and compression and rarefaction waves with the solar wind termination shock are briefly discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)822-846
Number of pages25
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 1995


  • Acceleration of particles
  • Cosmic rays
  • Hydrodynamics
  • Solar wind
  • Waves

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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