Internal shocks hydrodynamics: the collision of two cold shells in detail

Sk Minhajur Rahaman, Jonathan Granot, Paz Beniamini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Emission in many astrophysical transients originates from a shocked fluid. A central engine typically produces an outflow with varying speeds, leading to internal collisions within the outflow at finite distances from the source. Each such collision produces a pair of forward and reverse shocks with the two shocked regions separated by a contact discontinuity (CD). As a useful approximation, we consider the head-on collision between two cold and uniform shells (a slower leading shell and a faster trailing shell) of finite radial width, and study the dynamics of shock propagation in planar geometry. We find significant differences between the forward and reverse shocks, in terms of their strength, internal energy production efficiency, and the time it takes for the shocks to sweep through the respective shells. We consider the subsequent propagation of rarefaction waves in the shocked regions and explore the cases where these waves can catch up with the shock fronts and thereby limit the internal energy dissipation. We demonstrate the importance of energy transfer from the trailing to leading shell through pdV work across the CD. We outline the parameter space regions relevant for models of different transients,e.g. Gamma-ray burst internal shock model, fast radio burst blast wave model, Giant flare due to magnetars, and superluminous supernovae ejecta. We find that the reverse shock likely dominates the internal energy production for many astrophysical transients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)160-179
Number of pages20
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2024

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  • fast radio bursts
  • gamma-ray bursts
  • hydrodynamics
  • relativistic processes
  • shock waves
  • stars: magnetars


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