Interaction between a comet and the solar wind

Interaction between a comet and the solar wind

. Magnetic field lines entrained within the solar wind (A) are unable to penetrate the sphere of ions that envelop a comet nucleus, and so they pile up in front of it and drape around it (B). An ion tail forms on the side of the comet facing away from the Sun (C and D). The ions flow away from the Sun between the oppositely directed magnetic field lines in the tail. When a comet enters a region where the original magnetic field lines in the solar wind (A) changes direction, the comet loses its ion tail and soon grows another.

Copyright 2010, Professor Kenneth R. Lang, Tufts University