Articles | Volume 21, issue 3
31 Mar 2003
 | 31 Mar 2003

The properties and causes of rippling in quasi-perpendicular collisionless shock fronts

R. E. Lowe and D. Burgess

Abstract. The overall structure of quasi-perpendicular, high Mach number collisionless shocks is controlled to a large extent by ion reflection at the shock ramp. Departure from a strictly one-dimensional structure is indicated by simulation results showing that the surface of such shocks is rippled, with variations in the density and all field components. We present a detailed analysis of these shock ripples, using results from a two-dimensional hybrid (particle ions, electron fluid) simulation. The process that generates the ripples is poorly understood, because the large gradients at the shock ramp make it difficult to identify instabilities. Our analysis reveals new features of the shock ripples, which suggest the presence of a surface wave mode dominating the shock normal magnetic field component of the ripples, as well as whistler waves excited by reflected ions.

Key words. Space plasma physics (numerical simulation studies; shock waves; waves and instabilities)