Bowshock Browser


Earth's bow shock represents the outermost boundary between that region of geospace which is influenced by Earth's magnetic field and the largely undisturbed interplanetary medium streaming from the Sun. For many years this boundary has been crossed by Earth-orbiting satellites. We have put together a web-accessible database of bow shock crossings from IMP 8, Geotail, Magion-4, and Cluster to facilitate statistical studies and cross-comparisons between satellites. Further details on the sources and planned coverages of these data are given below.
The underlying ASCII files are ftp-accessible. The primary output from this interface is one line per bow shock crossing containing parameters selected in the left-most boxes below and with parameters satisfying any user-specified ranges on the right side. Output will be sorted first by spacecraft and then by time, unless the user specifies an alternative sorting below. A scatter plot output option is also available.
The later words(24-36) were computed at SPDF. Time tagging is addressed in footnote 1.

* Scatter plot of any parameter pair with filtering

Please enter your selections and then click on the Submit button below.

     List data Create file (file?)

IMP-8  (1973-10-31 - 2000-06-09)
Geotail  (1995-01-01 - 1997-11-02)
Magion-4  (1996-02-01 - 1997-07-31)
Cluster  (2001-02-02 - 2002-05-20)
All spacecraft    

* Enter start and stop dates(Use yyyyddd or yyyymmdd)
  1    Start      Stop

*Select variables
[Use boxes on right to specify range for any parameter(s).]
Name Format Comments Optional values:
Low    High
7Xgse F6.1 Spacecraft position Xgse, Re   
8Ygse F6.1 Spacecraft position Ygse, Re   
9Zgse F6.1 Spacecraft position Zgse, Re   
10Ygsm F6.1 Spacecraft position Ygsm, Re   
11Zgsm F6.1 Spacecraft position Zgsm, Re   
12Bxgse F6.1 Xgse component of upstream magnetic field vector, see footnote 2   
13Bygse F6.1 Ygse component of upstream magnetic field vector   
14Bzgse F6.1 Zgse component of upstream magnetic field vector   
15Bygsm F6.1 Ygsm component of upstream magnetic field vector   
16Bzgsm F6.1 Zgsm component of upstream magnetic field vector   
17Vxgse F7.1 -Xgse component of upstream sw velocity, km/s, see footnote 3   
18Vygse F7.1 -Ygse component of upstream sw velocity, km/s, see footnote 3   
19Vzgse F7.1 -Zgse component of upstream sw velocity, km/s, see footnote 3   
20Density F6.1 Upstream solar wind proton density (cm**-3)   
21*Density F6.1 Downstream solar wind proton density (cm**-3), see footnote 4   
22Temprtr I8 Upstream proton temperature (deg K)   
23*Timspan I5 Time span, minutes, see footnote 5   
24Bt F6.1 Upstream magnetic field intensity, nT, see footnote 6   
25Flow spd F7.1 Upstream flow speed, km/s, see footnote 7   
26Soundspd F7.1 Upstream sound speed, km/s, see footnote 8   
27Alfvnspd F7.1 Upstream Alfven speed, km/s, see footnote 9   
28M'sonspd F7.1 Upstream magnetosonic speed, km/s, see footnote 10   
29Ms F5.1 Upstream sonic Mach number, (wd 25)/(wd 26)   
30Ma F6.1 Upstream Alfven Mach number, (wd 25)/(wd 27)   
31Mms F5.1 Upstream magnetosonic Mach number, (wd 25)/(wd 28)   
32Beta F8.2 Upstream plasma beta, see footnote 11   
33FlPres F6.2 Upstream flow pressure, nPa, see footnote 12   
34*Shst F4.1 Shock strength, (wd 21)/(wd 20)   
35IMFcone I4 IMF cone angle, deg, see footnote 13   
36IMFclck I4 IMF clock angle, deg, see footnote 14   
37*Orbno I4 Orbit number, as per IMP Project   
38*Inout I2 =0 for solarwindward orbit leg (Ygse<0)
=1 for magnetotailward orbit leg (Ygse>0)
39*Seqno I3 Sequence number of the crossing for this orbit leg,see footnote 15   
40*Transdr I2 Direction of crossing transition, see footnote 16   
41*Flag1 I2 Observation flag, see footnote 17   
42*Flag2 I2 Shock cleanliness flag, see footnote 18   
43*Flag3 I2 Upstream cleanliness flag, see footnote 19   
*Note: Parameters 21,23,34,37-43 are available for IMP8 only

Data Sources Footnotes
1. In general, the minute given is that in/during which the crossing is 
       observed.  For "extended" crossings, the minute given is that in which the 
       peak of the shock overshoot occurs.  For records recording multiple shock 
       crossings, the minute is the minute of the first shock crossing.

2.  Upstream parameters have been determined in various ways
      for various spacecraft.  For IMP 8, upstream parameters are
      as measured by IMP 8 on the solar wind side of the shock,
      typically over a few-minute interval judged by the IMP field
      and plasma teams as stable.  For Geotail and Magion, 10-min
      averages from the Wind spacecraft, time shifted to the bow
      shock using (Xwind - 14 Re) / Vx, were used.  This same
      approach was used for Cluster, but with ACE upstream data.
      For IMP multiple-shock records, all upstream parameters are 
      for the first crossing in the interval (independent of the
      in-out direction of spacecraft motion).

3. The Xgse component of the solar wind velocity vector is negative.  To 
       avoid negative values for this component, we have chosen to give 
       components for the vector anti-aligned with the velocity vector.

4.IMP 8: Note that for cases of multiple-shock
       records, the downstream density is that density just downstream 
       of the most solarwind-ward crossing.
       Other satellites: no downstream density is provided.

5.IMP 8: The time span gives duration, in minutes, of gaps for inferred
       crossings (flag 1 = 4 cases; see below for discussion of flags) 
       or duration of periods of multiple unresolved or resolved shocks
       (flag 2 = 6 or 7 cases). For other cases, the time span gives the
       shock duration. In the majority of cases wherein the shock occurs
       in a fraction of minute, this field has value = 0.

Following footnotes address calculations of various parameters from direct observables.

Further explanations of some equations below are given  here 

6.  The field intensity is [Bx**2+By**2+Bz**2]**0.5 (wds 12-14 --> wd 24)

7.  The flow speed is [Vx**2 + Vy**2 + Vz**2]**0.5 (wds 17-19 --> wd 25)

8.  The sound speed = 0.12 * [T + 1.28*10**5]**0.5  (wd 22 --> wd 26)

9.  The Alfven speed = 20. * B / N**0.5  (wds 24, 20 --> wd 27)

10.  Magnetosonic speed = [(sound speed)**2 + (Alfv speed)**2]**0.5
        (wds 26, 27 --> wd 28)
       But please check special note here also!

11.  Plasma beta = [(T*4.16/10**5) + 5.34] * N / B**2
        (wds 22, 20, 24 --> wd 32)

12.  Flow pressure = (2.0/10**6) * N * V**2  (wds 20, 25 --> wd 33)
               (note that this 2.0 includes a 5% alpha contribution)

13.  IMF cone angle = 57.3 * arc cos [|Bx|/Bt]  (wds 12, 24 --> wd 35)

14.  IMF clock angle = 57.3 * arc tan [|Bygsm|/Bzgsm]  
        (wds 15, 16 --> wd 36)


Following footnotes apply only to IMP 8 data.

15. Sequence number of the crossing for this orbit leg (1, 2, ...N) for multiple-shock records (Flag2 = 6 or 7), this number increments by one for unresolvable shock periods (F2=6) or by the number of resolvable shocks plus the number of unresolvable-shock subintervals 16. Direction of crossing transition: =0 spacecraft passing into solar wind =1 spacecraft passing into magnetosheath =2 multiple close shocks; same region on both sides; see word 23 for duration. 17. Flag 1 (observation flag) has the following values - 1. Observed in field and plasma data 2. Field data missing 3. Plasma data missing 4. Inferred crossing, data gap 5. Inferred crossing, data but no likely shock visible When a bow shock crossing is inferred to have happened during some time interval, the start time of the interval is given in the record. In addition, if the interval is less than 30 minutes in duration, the location of IMP 8 at the start of the interval is also given in the record. Otherwise the IMP location words have fill values in them. Note that the time span word (word 23) is used to give the interval duration in such cases. In general, upstream parameter values are given as fill values for such cases. These intervals typically correspond to data gaps (Flag 1 = 4) with IMP 8 clearly in the solar wind on one side of the gap and in the magnetosheath on the other side. There are rare Flag 1 = 5 cases where IMP 8 is clearly in the solar wind on one side of the interval and in the magnetosheath on the other side and wherein there are data within the interval, yet it is impossible to discern on a finer scale when IMP 8 passed between the solar wind and the magnetosheath. 18. Flag 2 (shock cleanliness flag) has the following values. (Note in particular that values 1-4 are relevant to cases of one shock while 6-8 are relevant to cases of multiple close shocks where we hope to make a second pass to create individual records for resolvable close shocks; note also that some or all of the members of a set of multiple close shocks may be unresolvable from each other and, separately, may be ambiguous in the sense of values 2-4 for individual shocks. In general, where an interval of multiple close shocks ends with a clean shock, there will be a separate record for that shock.) 1. The shock is clean and unambiguous in all available data 2. The shock is clean in field, ambiguous in plasma data 3. The shock is clean in plasma, ambiguous in field data 4. The shock is ambiguous in all available data 5. Used for inferred crossings (Flag1 = 4 or 5) 6. Multiple unresolvable shocks possibly involving relatively clean shocks at the start and end (Seqno, wd 39, increments by 1 whether same domain or different domains on two sides) 7. Multiple resolvable shocks with no subinterval(s) of unresolvable shocks. Used on first pass for intervals with no shock pair separated by >15 minutes. Word 39 increments by sum of number of shocks in the interval or one less if the ending shock is also given a separate record of its own. 8. Multiple shocks, mixed resolvable/unresolvable, some resolvable shocks may be ambiguous. Word 39 increments by the number of resolvable shocks in the interval or one less if the ending shock is given a record of its own. 19.Flag 3 (upstream cleanliness flag) has the following values - 1. Upstream values steady and well defined 2. Upstream values unsteady and uncertainly defined 3. Used for inferred crossings (Flag1 = 4)


If you have any questions/comments about this service contact: Dr. Natalia Papitashvili, SPDF, Mail Code 672, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD 20771

NASA Official: Robert Candey (, Head of the Space Physics Data Facility
Last Update: Apr. 1, 2003, NEP.