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Title: Plasmoid Instability in the Multiphase Interstellar Medium
Abstract The processes controlling the complex clump structure, phase distribution, and magnetic field geometry that develop across a broad range of scales in the turbulent interstellar medium (ISM) remain unclear. Using unprecedentedly high-resolution 3D magnetohydrodynamic simulations of thermally unstable turbulent systems, we show that large current sheets unstable to plasmoid-mediated reconnection form regularly throughout the volume. The plasmoids form in three distinct environments: (i) within cold clumps, (ii) at the asymmetric interface of the cold and warm phases, and (iii) within the warm, volume-filling phase. We then show that the complex magnetothermal phase structure is characterized by a predominantly highly magnetized cold phase, but that regions of high magnetic curvature, which are the sites of reconnection, span a broad range in temperature. Furthermore, we show that thermal instabilities change the scale-dependent anisotropy of the turbulent magnetic field, reducing the increase in eddy elongation at smaller scales. Finally, we show that most of the mass is contained in one contiguous cold structure surrounded by smaller clumps that follow a scale-free mass distribution. These clumps tend to be highly elongated and exhibit a size versus internal velocity relation consistent with supersonic turbulence and a relative clump distance–velocity scaling consistent with subsonic motion. We discuss the striking similarity of cold plasmoids to observed tiny-scale atomic and ionized structures and H i fibers and consider how the presence of plasmoids will modify the motion of charged particles, thereby impacting cosmic-ray transport and thermal conduction in the ISM and other similar systems.  more » « less
Award ID(s):
2206610 2206607
NSF-PAR ID:
10451494
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ;
Date Published:
Journal Name:
The Astrophysical Journal Letters
Volume:
949
Issue:
1
ISSN:
2041-8205
Page Range / eLocation ID:
L5
Format(s):
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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