skip to main content

Title: Ion Dynamics in the Meso-scale 3-D Kelvin–Helmholtz Instability: Perspectives From Test Particle Simulations
Over three decades of in-situ observations illustrate that the Kelvin–Helmholtz (KH) instability driven by the sheared flow between the magnetosheath and magnetospheric plasma often occurs on the magnetopause of Earth and other planets under various interplanetary magnetic field (IMF) conditions. It has been well demonstrated that the KH instability plays an important role for energy, momentum, and mass transport during the solar-wind-magnetosphere coupling process. Particularly, the KH instability is an important mechanism to trigger secondary small scale (i.e., often kinetic-scale) physical processes, such as magnetic reconnection, kinetic Alfvén waves, ion-acoustic waves, and turbulence, providing the bridge for the coupling of cross scale physical processes. From the simulation perspective, to fully investigate the role of the KH instability on the cross-scale process requires a numerical modeling that can describe the physical scales from a few Earth radii to a few ion (even electron) inertial lengths in three dimensions, which is often computationally expensive. Thus, different simulation methods are required to explore physical processes on different length scales, and cross validate the physical processes which occur on the overlapping length scales. Test particle simulation provides such a bridge to connect the MHD scale to the kinetic scale. This study applies different test more » particle approaches and cross validates the different results against one another to investigate the behavior of different ion species (i.e., H+ and O+), which include particle distributions, mixing and heating. It shows that the ion transport rate is about 10 25  particles/s, and mixing diffusion coefficient is about 10 10  m 2  s −1 regardless of the ion species. Magnetic field lines change their topology via the magnetic reconnection process driven by the three-dimensional KH instability, connecting two flux tubes with different temperature, which eventually causes anisotropic temperature in the newly reconnected flux. « less
; ; ; ; ;
Award ID(s):
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Frontiers in Astronomy and Space Sciences
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Romain Maggiolo, Nicolas André (Ed.)
    As space plasmas are highly collisionless and involve several temporal and spatial scales, understanding the physical mechanisms responsible for energy transport between these scales is a challenge. Ideally, to study cross-scale space plasma processes, simultaneous multi-spacecraft measurements in three different scales (fluid, ion and electron) would be required together with adequate instrumental temporal resolution. In this chapter we discuss cross-scale energy transport mechanisms mainly focusing on velocity shear driven Kelvin-Helmholtz instability and resulting secondary instabilities and processes, e.g, magnetic reconnection, kinetic magnetosonic waves and kinetic Alfven waves/mode conversion.
  2. Context. Flux ropes in the solar wind are a key element of heliospheric dynamics and particle acceleration. When associated with current sheets, the primary formation mechanism is magnetic reconnection and flux ropes in current sheets are commonly used as tracers of the reconnection process. Aims. Whilst flux ropes associated with reconnecting current sheets in the solar wind have been reported, their occurrence, size distribution, and lifetime are not well understood. Methods. Here we present and analyse new Solar Orbiter magnetic field data reporting novel observations of a flux rope confined to a bifurcated current sheet in the solar wind. Comparative data and large-scale context is provided by Wind. Results. The Solar Orbiter observations reveal that the flux rope, which does not span the current sheet, is of ion scale, and in a reconnection formation scenario, existed for a prolonged period of time as it was carried out in the reconnection exhaust. Wind is also found to have observed clear signatures of reconnection at what may be the same current sheet, thus demonstrating that reconnection signatures can be found separated by as much as ∼2000 Earth radii, or 0.08 au. Conclusions. The Solar Orbiter observations provide new insight into the hierarchymore »of scales on which flux ropes can form, and show that they exist down to the ion scale in the solar wind. The context provided by Wind extends the spatial scale over which reconnection signatures have been found at solar wind current sheets. The data suggest the local orientations of the current sheet at Solar Orbiter and Wind are rotated relative to each other, unlike reconnection observed at smaller separations; the implications of this are discussed with reference to patchy vs. continuous reconnection scenarios.« less
  3. In a magnetized, collisionless plasma, the magnetic moment of the constituent particles is an adiabatic invariant. An increase in the magnetic-field strength in such a plasma thus leads to an increase in the thermal pressure perpendicular to the field lines. Above a $\unicode[STIX]{x1D6FD}$ -dependent threshold (where $\unicode[STIX]{x1D6FD}$ is the ratio of thermal to magnetic pressure), this pressure anisotropy drives the mirror instability, producing strong distortions in the field lines on ion-Larmor scales. The impact of this instability on magnetic reconnection is investigated using a simple analytical model for the formation of a current sheet (CS) and the associated production of pressure anisotropy. The difficulty in maintaining an isotropic, Maxwellian particle distribution during the formation and subsequent thinning of a CS in a collisionless plasma, coupled with the low threshold for the mirror instability in a high- $\unicode[STIX]{x1D6FD}$ plasma, imply that the geometry of reconnecting magnetic fields can differ radically from the standard Harris-sheet profile often used in simulations of collisionless reconnection. As a result, depending on the rate of CS formation and the initial CS thickness, tearing modes whose growth rates and wavenumbers are boosted by this difference may disrupt the mirror-infested CS before standard tearing modes can develop. Amore »quantitative theory is developed to illustrate this process, which may find application in the tearing-mediated disruption of kinetic magnetorotational ‘channel’ modes.« less
  4. Abstract

    Revealing the formation, dynamics, and contribution to plasma heating of magnetic field fluctuations in the solar wind is an important task for heliospheric physics and for a general plasma turbulence theory. Spacecraft observations in the solar wind are limited to spatially localized measurements, so that the evolution of fluctuation properties with solar wind propagation is mostly studied via statistical analyses of data sets collected by different spacecraft at various radial distances from the Sun. In this study we investigate the evolution of turbulence in the Earth’s magnetosheath, a plasma system sharing many properties with the solar wind. The near-Earth space environment is being explored by multiple spacecraft missions, which may allow us to trace the evolution of magnetosheath fluctuations with simultaneous measurements at different distances from their origin, the Earth’s bow shock. We compare ARTEMIS and Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) Mission measurements in the Earth magnetosheath and Parker Solar Probe measurements of the solar wind at different radial distances. The comparison is supported by three numerical simulations of the magnetosheath magnetic and plasma fluctuations: global hybrid simulation resolving ion kinetic and including effects of Earth’s dipole field and realistic bow shock, hybrid and Hall-MHD simulations in expanding boxes that mimicmore »the magnetosheath volume expansion with the radial distance from the dayside bow shock. The comparison shows that the magnetosheath can be considered as a miniaturized version of the solar wind system with much stronger plasma thermal anisotropy and an almost equal amount of forward and backward propagating Alfvén waves. Thus, many processes, such as turbulence development and kinetic instability contributions to plasma heating, occurring on slow timescales and over large distances in the solar wind, occur more rapidly in the magnetosheath and can be investigated in detail by multiple near-Earth spacecraft.

    « less
  5. Magnetic 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 »ultimately greater magnetic energy release than in two dimensions. Intriguingly, non-thermal particle acceleration is astonishingly robust, depending on the upstream magnetization and guide field, but otherwise yielding similar particle energy spectra in two and three dimensions. Although the variety of underlying current sheet behaviours is interesting, the similarities in overall energy release and particle spectra may be more remarkable.« less