On the amplification of magnetic field by a supernova blast shock wave in a turbulent medium

Fan Guo, Shengtai Li, Hui Li, Joe Giacalone, J. R. Jokipii, David Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

72 Scopus citations


We have performed extensive two-dimensional magnetohydrodynamic simulations to study the amplification of magnetic fields when a supernova blast wave propagates into a turbulent interstellar plasma. The blast wave is driven by injecting high pressure in the simulation domain. The interstellar magnetic field can be amplified by two different processes, occurring in different regions. One is facilitated by the fluid vorticity generated by the "rippled" shock front interacting with the background turbulence. The resulting turbulent flow keeps amplifying the magnetic field, consistent with earlier work. The other process is facilitated by the growth of the Rayleigh-Taylor instability at the contact discontinuity between the ejecta and the shocked medium. This can efficiently amplify the magnetic field and tends to produce the highest magnetic field. We investigate the dependence of the amplification on numerical parameters such as grid-cell size and on various physical parameters. We show that the magnetic field has a characteristic radial profile such that the downstream magnetic field gets progressively stronger away from the shock. This is because the downstream magnetic field needs a finite time to reach the efficient amplification, and will get further amplified in the Rayleigh-Taylor region. In our simulation, we do not observe a systematic strong magnetic field within a small distance to the shock. This indicates that if the magnetic-field amplification in supernova remnants indeed occurs near the shock front, other processes such as three-dimensional instabilities, plasma kinetics, and/or cosmic ray effect may need to be considered to explain the strong magnetic field in supernova remnants.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number98
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 10 2012


  • magnetic fields
  • shock waves
  • turbulence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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