Article open access publication

Extremely Low‐Frequency Waves Inside the Diamagnetic Cavity of Comet 67P/Churyumov‐Gerasimenko

Geophysical Research Letters, American Geophysical Union (AGU), ISSN 1944-8007

Volume 45, 9, 2018

DOI:10.1029/2017gl076415, Dimensions: pub.1103816119,



  1. (1) Technical University of Denmark, grid.5170.3, DTU
  2. (2) University of Oslo, grid.5510.1
  3. (3) Swedish Institute of Space Physics (IRFU)
  4. (4) TU Braunschweig, grid.6738.a
  5. (5) Royal Institute of Technology, grid.5037.1
  6. (6) Belgian Institute For Space Aeronomy, grid.8654.f
  7. (7) Umeå University, grid.12650.30
  8. (8) Laboratoire de Physique et de Chimie de l'Environnement et de l'Espace (LPC2E), Orléans, France










The European Space Agency/Rosetta mission to comet 67P/Churyumov‐Gerasimenko has provided several hundred observations of the cometary diamagnetic cavity induced by the interaction between outgassed cometary particles, cometary ions, and the solar wind magnetic field. Here we present the first electric field measurements of four preperihelion and postperihelion cavity crossings on 28 May 2015 and 17 February 2016, using the dual‐probe electric field mode of the Langmuir probe (LAP) instrument of the Rosetta Plasma Consortium. We find that on large scales, variations in the electric field fluctuations capture the cavity and boundary regions observed in the already well‐studied magnetic field, suggesting the electric field mode of the LAP instrument as a reliable tool to image cavity crossings. In addition, the LAP electric field mode unravels for the first time extremely low‐frequency waves within two cavities. These low‐frequency electrostatic waves are likely triggered by lower‐hybrid waves observed in the surrounding magnetized plasma. As sunlight heats a comet nucleus, frozen volatile gases sublimate are ionized and interact with the solar wind and its embedded magnetic field, inducing a dynamical plasma environment around the comet. With the cornerstone European mission Rosetta and its 2 years of near‐continuous orbiting of comet 67P/Churyumov‐Gerasimenko, the origin, structure, and evolution of this environment are only starting to be unveiled. Exciting are the numerous crossings of the diamagnetic cavity, the innermost plasma region from which the solar wind magnetic field is excluded. Whilst the magnetic field structure of the cavity crossings is well studied, the related electric field activity remains until now unexplored. Studying the electric field with the Langmuir probes onboard Rosetta, we find that whereas the large‐scale electric field structure agrees well with the observed magnetic field behavior during cavity crossings, unexpected short‐lived low‐frequency electric field signals manifest themselves within the cavity. We interpret these as electrostatic waves triggered by a modulating of the cavity boundary caused by observed electrostatic waves at the same frequency in the surrounding magnetized plasma. This unravels a new aspect of the electromagnetic activity in the inner cometary environment, which is crucial for our understanding of the comet‐solar wind‐induced plasma environment. The first continuous low‐frequency electric field observations of the diamagnetic cavity of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko is here presented Observed low‐frequency wave activity in the 3‐ to 8‐Hz range is interpreted as ion acoustic waves excitation due to a cavity boundary forcing The magnetic and electric fields have similar characteristics while crossing the cavity


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