Drift acceleration at interplanetary shocks

G. Erdös, A. Balogh

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Scatter-free acceleration of energetic particles by quasi-perpendicular interplanetary shocks is investigated. A brief review is given on the predictions of the gradient drift acceleration model concerning the energy, time, and angular dependence of the particle flux caused by a single shock encounter interaction. The angular distribution of ions in the energy range 35 keV to 1 MeV has been determined by the low-energy ion spectrometer aboard the ISEE 3 spacecraft at several shock associated events. Reflections of particles from the shock were clearly identifiable by the loss cone in the upstream pitch angle distributions. The measurements were compared to the predictions of the gradient drift acceleration model, showing a qualitative agreement in many respects. However, bidirectional distributions observed at nearly perpendicular shocks cannot be explained in the framework of the single shock encounter mechanism. It is suggested that multiple intersections of the field lines with the surface of the shock, forming magnetic traps on the upstream side, are responsible for the observed bidirectional distributions. Results obtained from numerical test particle simulations are discussed and compared to observations. A qualitative agreement between model calculations and measurements confirms that the energetic particles are trapped and accelerated, due to special field line topology, on the upstream side of the shock. It is also argued that the collapse of the trap by the convection of the field lines through the shock is accompanied by a considerable increase of the particle flux, which may be responsible for the shock spikes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)553-559
Number of pages7
JournalAstrophysical Journal, Supplement Series
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 1994



  • Acceleration of particles
  • Interplanetary medium

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science

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