skip to main content


Title: Electron and Proton Energization in 3D Reconnecting Current Sheets in Semirelativistic Plasma with Guide Magnetic Field
Abstract

Using 3D particle-in-cell simulation, we characterize energy conversion, as a function of guide magnetic field, in a thin current sheet in semirelativistic plasma, with relativistic electrons and subrelativistic protons. There, magnetic reconnection, the drift-kink instability (DKI), and the flux-rope kink instability all compete and interact in their nonlinear stages to convert magnetic energy to plasma energy. We compare fully 3D simulations with 2D in two different planes to isolate reconnection and DKI effects. In zero guide field, these processes yield distinct energy conversion signatures: ions gain more energy than electrons in 2Dxy(reconnection), while the opposite is true in 2Dyz(DKI), and the 3D result falls in between. The flux-rope instability, which occurs only in 3D, allows more magnetic energy to be released than in 2D, but the rate of energy conversion in 3D tends to be lower. Increasing the guide magnetic field strongly suppresses DKI, and in all cases slows and reduces the overall amount of energy conversion; it also favors electron energization through a process by which energy is first stored in the motional electric field of flux ropes before energizing particles. Understanding the evolution of the energy partition thus provides insight into the role of various plasma processes, and is important for modeling radiation from astrophysical sources such as accreting black holes and their jets.

 
more » « less
NSF-PAR ID:
10496861
Author(s) / Creator(s):
;
Publisher / Repository:
DOI PREFIX: 10.3847
Date Published:
Journal Name:
The Astrophysical Journal Letters
Volume:
964
Issue:
2
ISSN:
2041-8205
Format(s):
Medium: X Size: Article No. L21
Size(s):
["Article No. L21"]
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract

    When and where the magnetic field energy is released and converted in eruptive solar flares remains an outstanding topic in solar physics. To shed light on this question, here we report multiwavelength observations of a C9.4-class eruptive limb flare that occurred on 2017 August 20. The flare, accompanied by a magnetic flux rope eruption and a white light coronal mass ejection, features three post-impulsive X-ray and microwave bursts immediately following its main impulsive phase. For each burst, both microwave and X-ray imaging suggest that the nonthermal electrons are located in the above-the-loop-top region. Interestingly, contrary to many other flares, the peak flux of the three post-impulsive microwave and X-ray bursts shows an increase for later bursts. Spectral analysis reveals that the sources have a hardening spectral index, suggesting a more efficient electron acceleration into the later post-impulsive bursts. We observe a positive correlation between the acceleration of the magnetic flux rope and the nonthermal energy release during the post-impulsive bursts in the same event. Intriguingly, different from some other eruptive events, this correlation does not hold for the main impulse phase of this event, which we interpret as energy release due to the tether-cutting reconnection before the primary flux rope acceleration occurs. In addition, using footpoint brightenings at conjugate flare ribbons, a weakening reconnection guide field is inferred, which may also contribute to the hardening of the nonthermal electrons during the post-impulsive phase.

     
    more » « less
  2. null (Ed.)
    Context. Magnetic reconnection plays a fundamental role in plasma dynamics under many different conditions, from space and astrophysical environments to laboratory devices. High-resolution in situ measurements from space missions allow naturally occurring reconnection processes to be studied in great detail. Alongside direct measurements, numerical simulations play a key role in the investigation of the fundamental physics underlying magnetic reconnection, also providing a testing ground for current models and theory. The choice of an adequate plasma model to be employed in numerical simulations, while also compromising with computational cost, is crucial for efficiently addressing the problem under study. Aims. We consider a new plasma model that includes a refined electron response within the “hybrid-kinetic framework” (fully kinetic protons and fluid electrons). The extent to which this new model can reproduce a full-kinetic description of 2D reconnection, with particular focus on its robustness during the nonlinear stage, is evaluated. Methods. We perform 2D simulations of magnetic reconnection with moderate guide field by means of three different plasma models: (i) a hybrid-Vlasov-Maxwell model with isotropic, isothermal electrons, (ii) a hybrid-Vlasov-Landau-fluid (HVLF) model where an anisotropic electron fluid is equipped with a Landau-fluid closure, and (iii) a full-kinetic model. Results. When compared to the full-kinetic case, the HVLF model effectively reproduces the main features of magnetic reconnection, as well as several aspects of the associated electron microphysics and its feedback onto proton dynamics. This includes the global evolution of magnetic reconnection and the local physics occurring within the so-called electron-diffusion region, as well as the evolution of species’ pressure anisotropy. In particular, anisotropy-driven instabilities (such as fire-hose, mirror, and cyclotron instabilities) play a relevant role in regulating electrons’ anisotropy during the nonlinear stage of magnetic reconnection. As expected, the HVLF model captures all these features, except for the electron-cyclotron instability. 
    more » « less
  3. 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 and 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. 
    more » « less
  4. Abstract

    AnLMNcoordinate system for magnetic reconnection events is sometimes determined by definingNas the direction of the gradient across the current sheet andLas the direction of maximum variance of the magnetic field. The third direction,M, is often assumed to be the direction of zero gradient, and thus the orientation of the X line. But when there is a guide field, the X line direction may have a significant component in the L direction defined in this way. For a 2D description, a coordinate system describing such an event would preferably be defined using a different coordinate directionM′ oriented along the X line. Here we use a 3D particle‐in‐cell simulation to show that the X line is oriented approximately along the direction bisecting the asymptotic magnetic field directions on the two sides of the current sheet. We describe two possible ways to determine the orientation of the X line from spacecraft data, one using the minimum gradient direction from Minimum Directional Derivative analysis at distances of the order of the current sheet thickness from the X line, and another using the bisection direction based on the asymptotic magnetic fields outside the current sheet. We discuss conditions for validity of these estimates, and we illustrate these conditions using several Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) events. We also show that intersection of a flux rope due to secondary reconnection with the primary X line can destroy invariance along the X line and negate the validity of a two‐dimensional description.

     
    more » « less
  5. Abstract

    The origins of the various outbursts of hard X-rays from magnetars (highly magnetized neutron stars) are still unknown. We identify instabilities in relativistic magnetospheres that can explain a range of X-ray flare luminosities. Crustal surface motions can twist the magnetar magnetosphere by shifting the frozen-in footpoints of magnetic field lines in current-carrying flux bundles. Axisymmetric (2D) magnetospheres exhibit strong eruptive dynamics, i.e., catastrophic lateral instabilities triggered by a critical footpoint displacement ofψcritπ. In contrast, our new three-dimensional (3D) twist models with finite surface extension capture important non-axisymmetric dynamics of twisted force-free flux bundles in dipolar magnetospheres. Besides the well-established global eruption resulting (as in 2D) from lateral instabilities, such 3D structures can develop helical, kink-like dynamics, and dissipate energy locally (confined eruptions). Up to 25% of the induced twist energy is dissipated and available to power X-ray flares in powerful global eruptions, with most of our models showing an energy release in the range of the most common X-ray outbursts, ≲1043erg. Such events occur when significant energy builds up while deeply buried in the dipole magnetosphere. Less energetic outbursts likely precede powerful flares, due to intermittent instabilities and confined eruptions of a continuously twisting flux tube. Upon reaching a critical state, global eruptions produce the necessary Poynting-flux-dominated outflows required by models prescribing the fast radio burst production in the magnetar wind—for example, via relativistic magnetic reconnection or shocks.

     
    more » « less