Magnetic field amplification by shocks in turbulent fluids

J. Giacalone, J. R. Jokipii

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

256 Scopus citations


We consider the effect of preexisting, large-scale, broadband turbulent density fluctuations on propagating hydromagnetic shock waves. We present results from several numerical simulations that solve the two-dimensional magnetohydrodynamic equations. In our simulations, a plasma containing large-scale, low-amplitude density and magnetic field turbulence is forced to flow into a rigid wall, forming a shock wave. We find that the density fluctuations not only distort the shape of the shock front and lead to a turbulent postshock fluid, but they also produce a number of important changes in the postshock magnetic field. The average downstream magnetic field is increased significantly, and large fluctuations in the magnetic vector occur, with the maximum field strength reaching levels such that magnetic stresses are important in the postshock region. The downstream field enhancement can be understood in terms of the stretching and forcing together of the magnetic field entrained within the turbulent fluid of the postshock flow. We suggest that these effects of the density fluctuations on the magnetic field are observed in astrophysical shock waves such as supernova blast waves and the heliospheric termination shock.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)L41-L44
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1 II
StatePublished - Jul 1 2007


  • Magnetic fields
  • Shock waves
  • Turbulence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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