Dust grains and the structure of steady C-type magnetohydrodynamic shock waves in molecular clouds

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I examine the role of dust grains in determining the structure of steady, cold, oblique C-type shocks in dense molecular gas. Gas pressure, the inertia of the charged components and changes in ionization are neglected. The grain charge and rate coefficients for electron-neutral and grain-neutral elastic scattering are assumed constant at values appropriate to the shock interior. An MRN size distribution is accounted for by estimating an effective grain abundance and Hall parameter for single-size grains. A one-parameter family of intermediate shocks exists for each shock speed vs between the intermediate signal speed vAcosθ and √2vAcotθ, where vA is the pre-shock Alfvén speed and θ is the angle between the pre-shock magnetic field and the normal to the shock front. In addition, there is a unique fast shock for each vs > vA. If the pre-shock density nH ≳ 105 cm-3 and the pre-shock magnetic field satisfies B(mG)/nH(105 cm-3) ≲ 1, grains are partially decoupled from the magnetic field and the field and velocity components within fast shocks do not lie in the plane containing the preshock field and the shock normal. The resulting shock structure is significantly thinner than in models that do not take this into account. Existing models systematically underestimate the grain-neutral drift speed and the heating rate within the shock front. At densities in excess of 108 cm-3 these effects may be reduced by the nearly equal abundances of positive and negative grains.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)507-524
Number of pages18
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 1998
Externally publishedYes


  • Dust, extinction
  • ISM: clouds
  • ISM: molecules
  • MHD
  • Shock waves


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