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    In turbulence, non-linear terms drive energy transfer from large-scale eddies into small scales through the so-called energy cascade. Turbulence often relaxes toward states that minimize energy; typically these states are considered globally. However, turbulence can also relax toward local quasi-equilibrium states, creating patches or cells where the magnitude of non-linearity is reduced and the energy cascade is impaired. We show, using data from the Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) mission, and for the first time, compelling observational evidence that this ‘cellularization’ of turbulence can occur due to local relaxation in a strongly turbulent natural environment such as the Earth’s magnetosheath.

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  2. Abstract We investigate the detailed properties of electron inflow in an electron-only reconnection event observed by the four Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) spacecraft in the Earth's turbulent magnetosheath downstream of the quasi-parallel bow shock. The lack of ion coupling was attributed to the small-scale sizes of the current sheets, and the observed bidirectional super-Alfvénic electron jets indicate that the MMS spacecraft crossed the reconnecting current sheet on both sides of an active X-line. Remarkably, the MMS spacecraft observed the presence of large asymmetries in the two electron inflows, with the inflows (normal to the current sheet) on the two sides of the reconnecting current layer differing by as much as a factor of four. Furthermore, even though the four MMS spacecraft were separated by less than seven electron skin depths, the degree of inflow asymmetry was significantly different at the different spacecraft. The asymmetry in the inflow speeds was larger with increasing distances downstream from the reconnection site, and the asymmetry was opposite on the two sides of the X-line. We compare the MMS observations with a 2D kinetic particle-in-cell (PIC) simulation and find that the asymmetry in the inflow speeds stems from in-plane currents generated via the combination of reconnection-mediated inflows and parallel flows along the magnetic separatrices in the presence of a large guide field. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available April 28, 2024
  3. Abstract An important aspect of energy dissipation in weakly collisional plasmas is that of energy partitioning between different species (e.g., protons and electrons) and between different energy channels. Here we analyse pressure–strain interaction to quantify the fractions of isotropic compressive, gyrotropic, and nongyrotropic heating for each species. An analysis of kinetic turbulence simulations is compared and contrasted with corresponding observational results from Magnetospheric Multiscale Mission data in the magnetosheath. In assessing how protons and electrons respond to different ingredients of the pressure–strain interaction, we find that compressive heating is stronger than incompressive heating in the magnetosheath for both electrons and protons, while incompressive heating is stronger in kinetic plasma turbulence simulations. Concerning incompressive heating, the gyrotropic contribution for electrons is dominant over the nongyrotropic contribution, while for protons nongyrotropic heating is enhanced in both simulations and observations. Variations with plasma β are also discussed, and protons tend to gain more heating with increasing β . 
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  4. Abstract Coulomb collisions provide plasma resistivity and diffusion but in many low-density astrophysical plasmas such collisions between particles are extremely rare. Scattering of particles by electromagnetic waves can lower the plasma conductivity. Such anomalous resistivity due to wave-particle interactions could be crucial to many processes, including magnetic reconnection. It has been suggested that waves provide both diffusion and resistivity, which can support the reconnection electric field, but this requires direct observation to confirm. Here, we directly quantify anomalous resistivity, viscosity, and cross-field electron diffusion associated with lower hybrid waves using measurements from the four Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) spacecraft. We show that anomalous resistivity is approximately balanced by anomalous viscosity, and thus the waves do not contribute to the reconnection electric field. However, the waves do produce an anomalous electron drift and diffusion across the current layer associated with magnetic reconnection. This leads to relaxation of density gradients at timescales of order the ion cyclotron period, and hence modifies the reconnection process. 
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  5. Abstract

    Despite decades of study of high-temperature weakly collisional plasmas, a complete understanding of how energy is transferred between particles and fields in turbulent plasmas remains elusive. Two major questions in this regard are how fluid-scale energy transfer rates, associated with turbulence, connect with kinetic-scale dissipation, and what controls the fraction of dissipation on different charged species. Although the rate of cascade has long been recognized as a limiting factor in the heating rate at kinetic scales, there has not been direct evidence correlating the heating rate with MHD-scale cascade rates. Using kinetic simulations and in situ spacecraft data, we show that the fluid-scale energy flux indeed accounts for the total energy dissipated at kinetic scales. A phenomenology, based on disruption of proton gyromotion by fluctuating electric fields that are produced in turbulence at proton scales, argues that the proton versus electron heating is controlled by the ratio of the nonlinear timescale to the proton cyclotron time and by the plasma beta. The proposed scalings are supported by the simulations and observations.

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  6. Electrons in earth's magnetotail are energized significantly both in the form of heating and in the form of acceleration to non-thermal energies. While magnetic reconnection is considered to play an important role in this energization, it still remains unclear how electrons are energized and how energy is partitioned between thermal and non-thermal components. Here, we show, based on in situ observations by NASA's magnetospheric multiscale mission combined with multi-component spectral fitting methods, that the average electron energy [Formula: see text] (or equivalently temperature) is substantially higher when the locally averaged electric field magnitude [Formula: see text] is also higher. While this result is consistent with the classification of “plasma-sheet” and “tail-lobe” reconnection during which reconnection is considered to occur on closed and open magnetic field lines, respectively, it further suggests that a stochastic Fermi acceleration in 3D, reconnection-driven turbulence is essential for the production and confinement of energetic electrons in the reconnection region. The puzzle is that the non-thermal power-law component can be quite small even when the electric field is large and the bulk population is significantly heated. The fraction of non-thermal electron energies varies from sample to sample between ∼20% and ∼60%, regardless of the electric field magnitude. Interestingly, these values of non-thermal fractions are similar to those obtained for the above-the-looptop hard x-ray coronal sources for solar flares. 
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