LOFAR4SW: Scintillation on tail of comet C/2020 F3 (Neowise)

For this newsletter, we present an exciting science result. On the 16th July 2020 a rare opportunity arose to further demonstrate what LOFAR can do for space weather science. The strong compact radio source 3C196 passed behind the tail of comet C/2020 F3 (Neowise), close to the comet itself, enabling us to test whether scintillation from a 100,000km diameter plasma tail could induce enough intensity scintillation to be detectable above that of the solar wind along a 300 million km line of sight. The answer was an emphatic yes! The scintillation was strong and the dynamic spectrum showed features that we do not usually see in scintillation from the solar wind. Interpretation of the data suggests that we are looking at strong turbulence along the boundary between the surrounding fast solar wind and the much slower material enclosed within the tail itself. The observation is completely unique, with the results now being written up for possible submission to Nature.

Author: Carla Baldovin

See also: https://www.astron.nl/lofar2-0-newsletter/lofar2-0-newsletter-may-2021/

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