The Bow Shock in front of a magnetosphere is very similar to the wave which appears in front of a boat as the ship passes through the water. It is similar to the wave in front of a rock in a stream. A plane traveling at supersonic speeds also produces a bow shock in the air in front of the plane, while it is flying.
The top image shows the bow shock of an U.S. Air Force plane as it flies through the air. The bottom image is for comparison. It shows the bow shock of the magnetosphere.
Click on image for full size version
Image courtesy of NASA
The bow shock helps force the solar wind to go around the magnetosphere.
What is Interplanetary Space?
What is a Magnetosphere?
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