skip to main content

Title: Spectra of Magnetic Turbulence in a Relativistic Plasma

We present a phenomenological and numerical study of strong Alfvénic turbulence in a magnetically dominated collisionless relativistic plasma with a strong background magnetic field. In contrast with the nonrelativistic case, the energy in such turbulence is contained in magnetic and electric fluctuations. We argue that such turbulence is analogous to turbulence in a strongly magnetized nonrelativistic plasma in the regime of broken quasi-neutrality. Our 2D particle-in-cell numerical simulations of turbulence in a relativistic pair plasma find that the spectrum of the total energy has the scalingk−3/2, while the difference between the magnetic and electric energies, the so-called residual energy, has the scalingk−2.4. The electric and magnetic fluctuations at scaleexhibit dynamic alignment with the alignment angle scaling close tocosϕ1/4. At scales smaller than the (relativistic) plasma inertial scale, the energy spectrum of relativistic inertial Alfvén turbulence steepens tok−3.5.

more » « less
Award ID(s):
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ;
Publisher / Repository:
DOI PREFIX: 10.3847
Date Published:
Journal Name:
The Astrophysical Journal Letters
Page Range / eLocation ID:
Article No. L10
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract

    Relativistic magnetically dominated turbulence is an efficient engine for particle acceleration in a collisionless plasma. Ultrarelativistic particles accelerated by interactions with turbulent fluctuations form nonthermal power-law distribution functions in the momentum (or energy) space,f(γ)dγγαdγ, whereγis the Lorenz factor. We argue that in addition to exhibiting non-Gaussian distributions over energies, particles energized by relativistic turbulence also become highly intermittent in space. Based on particle-in-cell numerical simulations and phenomenological modeling, we propose that the bulk plasma density has lognormal statistics, while the density of the accelerated particles,n, has a power-law distribution function,P(n)dnnβdn. We argue that the scaling exponents are related asβα+ 1, which is broadly consistent with numerical simulations. Non-space-filling, intermittent distributions of plasma density and energy fluctuations may have implications for plasma heating and for radiation produced by relativistic turbulence.

    more » « less
  2. Abstract

    We present analysis of 17,043 proton kinetic-scale current sheets (CSs) collected over 124 days of Wind spacecraft measurements in the solar wind at 11 samples s−1magnetic field resolution. The CSs have thickness,λ,from a few tens to one thousand kilometers with typical values around 100 km, or within about 0.1–10λpin terms of local proton inertial length,λp. We found that the current density is larger for smaller-scale CSs,J0≈ 6 nAm−2· (λ/100 km)−0.56, but does not statistically exceed a critical value,JA,corresponding to the drift between ions and electrons of local Alvén speed. The observed trend holds in normalized units:J0/JA0.17·(λ/λp)0.51. The CSs are statistically force-free with magnetic shear angle correlated with CS spatial scale:Δθ19°·(λ/λp)0.5. The observed correlations are consistent with local turbulence being the source of proton kinetic-scale CSs in the solar wind, while the mechanisms limiting the current density remain to be understood.

    more » « less
  3. Abstract

    We perform particle-in-cell simulations to elucidate the microphysics of relativistic weakly magnetized shocks loaded with electron-positron pairs. Various external magnetizationsσ≲ 10−4and pair-loading factorsZ±≲ 10 are studied, whereZ±is the number of loaded electrons and positrons per ion. We find the following: (1) The shock becomes mediated by the ion Larmor gyration in the mean field whenσexceeds a critical valueσLthat decreases withZ±. AtσσLthe shock is mediated by particle scattering in the self-generated microturbulent fields, the strength and scale of which decrease withZ±, leading to lowerσL. (2) The energy fraction carried by the post-shock pairs is robustly in the range between 20% and 50% of the upstream ion energy. The mean energy per post-shock electron scales asE¯eZ±+11. (3) Pair loading suppresses nonthermal ion acceleration at magnetizations as low asσ≈ 5 × 10−6. The ions then become essentially thermal with mean energyE¯i, while electrons form a nonthermal tail, extending fromEZ±+11E¯itoE¯i. Whenσ= 0, particle acceleration is enhanced by the formation of intense magnetic cavities that populate the precursor during the late stages of shock evolution. Here, the maximum energy of the nonthermal ions and electrons keeps growing over the duration of the simulation. Alongside the simulations, we develop theoretical estimates consistent with the numerical results. Our findings have important implications for models of early gamma-ray burst afterglows.

    more » « less
  4. Abstract

    We use ALMA observations of CO(2–1) in 13 massive (M*≳ 1011M) poststarburst galaxies atz∼ 0.6 to constrain the molecular gas content in galaxies shortly after they quench their major star-forming episode. The poststarburst galaxies in this study are selected from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey spectroscopic samples (Data Release 14) based on their spectral shapes, as part of the Studying QUenching at Intermediate-z Galaxies: Gas, anguLarmomentum, and Evolution (SQuIGGLE) program. Early results showed that two poststarburst galaxies host large H2reservoirs despite their low inferred star formation rates (SFRs). Here we expand this analysis to a larger statistical sample of 13 galaxies. Six of the primary targets (45%) are detected, withMH2109M. Given their high stellar masses, this mass limit corresponds to an average gas fraction offH2MH2/M*7%or ∼14% using lower stellar masses estimates derived from analytic, exponentially declining star formation histories. The gas fraction correlates with theDn4000 spectral index, suggesting that the cold gas reservoirs decrease with time since burst, as found in local K+A galaxies. Star formation histories derived from flexible stellar population synthesis modeling support this empirical finding: galaxies that quenched ≲150 Myr prior to observation host detectable CO(2–1) emission, while older poststarburst galaxies are undetected. The large H2reservoirs and low SFRs in the sample imply that the quenching of star formation precedes the disappearance of the cold gas reservoirs. However, within the following 100–200 Myr, theSQuIGGLEgalaxies require the additional and efficient heating or removal of cold gas to bring their low SFRs in line with standard H2scaling relations.

    more » « less
  5. Abstract

    The Parker Solar Probe (PSP) entered a region of sub-Alfvénic solar wind during encounter 8, and we present the first detailed analysis of low-frequency turbulence properties in this novel region. The magnetic field and flow velocity vectors were highly aligned during this interval. By constructing spectrograms of the normalized magnetic helicity, cross-helicity, and residual energy, we find that PSP observed primarily Alfvénic fluctuations, a consequence of the highly field-aligned flow that renders quasi-2D fluctuations unobservable to PSP. We extend Taylor’s hypothesis to sub- and super-Alfvénic flows. Spectra for the fluctuating forward and backward Elsässer variables (z±, respectively) are presented, showing thatz+modes dominatezby an order of magnitude or more, and thez+spectrum is a power law in frequency (parallel wavenumber)f−3/2(k3/2) compared to the convexzspectrum withf−3/2(k3/2) at low frequencies, flattening around a transition frequency (at which the nonlinear and Alfvén timescales are balanced) tof−1.25at higher frequencies. The observed spectra are well fitted using a spectral theory for nearly incompressible magnetohydrodynamics assuming a wavenumber anisotropykk3/4, that thez+fluctuations experience primarily nonlinear interactions, and that the minorityzfluctuations experience both nonlinear and Alfvénic interactions withz+fluctuations. The density spectrum is a power law that resembles neither thez±spectra nor the compressible magnetic field spectrum, suggesting that these are advected entropic rather than magnetosonic modes and not due to the parametric decay instability. Spectra in the neighboring modestly super-Alfvénic intervals are similar.

    more » « less