We have, in this paper, studied the stability of the ion-acoustic wave in a plasma composed of hydrogen, positively and negatively charged oxygen ions, and electrons, which approximates very well the plasma environment around a comet. Modelling each cometary component ( , , and ) by a ring distribution, we find that ion-acoustic waves can be generated at frequencies comparable to the hydrogen ion plasma frequency. The dispersion relation has been solved both analytically and numerically. We find that the ratio of the ring speed ( ) to the thermal spread ( ts) modifies the dispersion characteristics of the ion-acoustic wave. The contrasting behaviour of the phase velocity of the ion-acoustic wave in the presence of ions for ts (and vice versa) can be used to detect the presence of negatively charged oxygen ions and also their thermalization. 1. Introduction Low-frequency electrostatic or longitudinal ion density waves are one of the most fundamental of oscillations in a plasma [1, 2]. In the long-wavelength limit, the ions provide the inertia with the electrons as the source of the restoring force . Ion-acoustic waves also exhibit strong nonlinear properties and are highly Landau damped unless , where and are, respectively, the ion and electron temperatures [3–5]. These waves have been observed in both space and laboratory plasmas; they have thus been extensively studied in many types of high-temperature laboratory plasmas [4, 6]. The waves have been invoked to explain wave characteristics observed in Earth’s ionosphere  and transport in the solar wind, corona, chromosphere , and comets . In general a cometary environment contains new born hydrogen and heavier ions, with relative densities depending on the distance from the nucleus. Previous studies have concentrated on positively charged oxygen as the heavier ion species . However, Giotto’s observations of the inner coma of comet Halley showed that a new component, namely, negatively charged cometary ions was present, in addition to the usual thermal electrons and ions, fast cometary pickup ions, and so forth, . These negative ions were observed in three broad mass peaks at 7–19, 22–65, and 85–110 amu with being identified unambiguously . A popular model of a cometary environment is the solar wind plasma environment permeated by dilute, drifting ring distribution of electrons and ions with finite thermal spreads . Instabilities driven by an electron velocity ring distributions have been studied by many authors [12–14]. However, ion ring distributions are more important
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