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- Publication Date:
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- Journal Name:
- Journal of Plasma Physics
- Sponsoring Org:
- National Science Foundation
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We study within a fully kinetic framework the generation of “seed” magnetic fields through the Weibel instability, driven in an initially unmagnetized plasma by a large-scale shear force. We develop an analytical model that describes the development of thermal pressure anisotropy via phase mixing, the ensuing exponential growth of magnetic fields in the linear Weibel stage, and the saturation of the Weibel instability when the seed magnetic fields become strong enough to instigate gyromotion of particles and thereby inhibit their free-streaming. The predicted scaling dependencies of the saturated fields on key parameters (e.g., ratio of system scale to electron skin depth and forcing amplitude) are confirmed by two-dimensional and three-dimensional particle-in-cell simulations of an electron–positron plasma. This work demonstrates the spontaneous magnetization of a collisionless plasma through large-scale motions as simple as a shear flow and therefore has important implications for magnetogenesis in dilute astrophysical systems.
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Reconnection and particle acceleration in three-dimensional current sheet evolution in moderately magnetized astrophysical pair plasmaMagnetic reconnection, a plasma process converting magnetic energy to particle kinetic energy, is often invoked to explain magnetic energy releases powering high-energy flares in astrophysical sources including pulsar wind nebulae and black hole jets. Reconnection is usually seen as the (essentially two-dimensional) nonlinear evolution of the tearing instability disrupting a thin current sheet. To test how this process operates in three dimensions, we conduct a comprehensive particle-in-cell simulation study comparing two- and three-dimensional evolution of long, thin current sheets in moderately magnetized, collisionless, relativistically hot electron–positron plasma, and find dramatic differences. We first systematically characterize this process in two dimensions, where classic, hierarchical plasmoid-chain reconnection determines energy release, and explore a wide range of initial configurations, guide magnetic field strengths and system sizes. We then show that three-dimensional (3-D) simulations of similar configurations exhibit a diversity of behaviours, including some where energy release is determined by the nonlinear relativistic drift-kink instability. Thus, 3-D current sheet evolution is not always fundamentally classical reconnection with perturbing 3-D effects but, rather, a complex interplay of multiple linear and nonlinear instabilities whose relative importance depends sensitively on the ambient plasma, minor configuration details and even stochastic events. It often yields slower but longer-lasting andmore »
Laser-driven, ion-scale magnetospheres in laboratory plasmas. I. Experimental platform and first results
Magnetospheres are a ubiquitous feature of magnetized bodies embedded in a plasma flow. While large planetary magnetospheres have been studied for decades by spacecraft, ion-scale “mini” magnetospheres can provide a unique environment to study kinetic-scale, collisionless plasma physics in the laboratory to help validate models of larger systems. In this work, we present preliminary experiments of ion-scale magnetospheres performed on a unique high-repetition-rate platform developed for the Large Plasma Device at the University of California, Los Angeles. The experiments utilize a high-repetition-rate laser to drive a fast plasma flow into a pulsed dipole magnetic field embedded in a uniform magnetized background plasma. 2D maps of the magnetic field with high spatial and temporal resolution are measured with magnetic flux probes to examine the evolution of magnetosphere and current density structures for a range of dipole and upstream parameters. The results are further compared to 2D particle-in-cell simulations to identify key observational signatures of the kinetic-scale structures and dynamics of the laser-driven plasma. We find that distinct 2D kinetic-scale magnetopause and diamagnetic current structures are formed at higher dipole moments, and their locations are consistent with predictions based on pressure balances and energy conservation.
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