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    In this study, we explore the statistics of pressure fluctuations in kinetic collisionless turbulence. A 2.5D kinetic particle-in-cell simulation of decaying turbulence is used to investigate pressure balance via the evolution of thermal and magnetic pressure in a plasma with β of order unity. We also discuss the behaviour of thermal, magnetic, and total pressure structure functions and their corresponding wavenumber spectra. The total pressure spectrum exhibits a slope of −7/3 extending for about a decade in the ion-inertial range. In contrast, shallower −5/3 spectra are characteristic of the magnetic pressure and thermal pressure. The steeper total pressure spectrum is a consequence of cancellation caused by density-magnetic field magnitude anti-correlation. Further, we evaluate higher order total pressure structure functions in an effort to discuss intermittency and compare the power exponents with higher order structure functions of velocity and magnetic fluctuations. Finally, applications to astrophysical systems are also discussed.

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  2. Observations in Earth’s turbulent magnetosheath downstream of a quasiparallel bow shock reveal a prevalence of electron-scale current sheets favorable for electron-only reconnection where ions are not coupled to the reconnecting magnetic fields. In small-scale turbulence, magnetic structures associated with intense current sheets are limited in all dimensions. And since the coupling of ions are constrained by a minimum length scale, the dynamics of electron reconnection is likely to be 3D. Here, both 2D and 3D kinetic particle-in-cell simulations are used to investigate electron-only reconnection, focusing on the reconnection rate and associated electron flows. A new form of 3D electron-only reconnection spontaneously develops where the magnetic X-line is localized in the out-of-plane (z) direction. The consequence is an enhancement of the reconnection rate compared with two dimensions, which results from differential mass flux out of the diffusion region along z, enabling a faster inflow velocity and thus a larger reconnection rate. This outflow along z is due to the magnetic tension force in z just as the conventional exhaust tension force, allowing particles to leave the diffusion region efficiently along z unlike the 2D configuration. 
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    ABSTRACT The physical foundations of the dissipation of energy and the associated heating in weakly collisional plasmas are poorly understood. Here, we compare and contrast several measures that have been used to characterize energy dissipation and kinetic-scale conversion in plasmas by means of a suite of kinetic numerical simulations describing both magnetic reconnection and decaying plasma turbulence. We adopt three different numerical codes that can also include interparticle collisions: the fully kinetic particle-in-cell vpic, the fully kinetic continuum Gkeyll, and the Eulerian Hybrid Vlasov–Maxwell (HVM) code. We differentiate between (i) four energy-based parameters, whose definition is related to energy transfer in a fluid description of a plasma, and (ii) four distribution function-based parameters, requiring knowledge of the particle velocity distribution function. There is an overall agreement between the dissipation measures obtained in the PIC and continuum reconnection simulations, with slight differences due to the presence/absence of secondary islands in the two simulations. There are also many qualitative similarities between the signatures in the reconnection simulations and the self-consistent current sheets that form in turbulence, although the latter exhibits significant variations compared to the reconnection results. All the parameters confirm that dissipation occurs close to regions of intense magnetic stresses, thus exhibiting local correlation. The distribution function-based measures show a broader width compared to energy-based proxies, suggesting that energy transfer is co-localized at coherent structures, but can affect the particle distribution function in wider regions. The effect of interparticle collisions on these parameters is finally discussed. 
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    We investigate kinetic entropy-based measures of the non-Maxwellianity of distribution functions in plasmas, i.e. entropy-based measures of the departure of a local distribution function from an associated Maxwellian distribution function with the same density, bulk flow and temperature as the local distribution. First, we consider a form previously employed by Kaufmann & Paterson ( J. Geophys. Res. , vol. 114, 2009, A00D04), assessing its properties and deriving equivalent forms. To provide a quantitative understanding of it, we derive analytical expressions for three common non-Maxwellian plasma distribution functions. We show that there are undesirable features of this non-Maxwellianity measure including that it can diverge in various physical limits and elucidate the reason for the divergence. We then introduce a new kinetic entropy-based non-Maxwellianity measure based on the velocity-space kinetic entropy density, which has a meaningful physical interpretation and does not diverge. We use collisionless particle-in-cell simulations of two-dimensional anti-parallel magnetic reconnection to assess the kinetic entropy-based non-Maxwellianity measures. We show that regions of non-zero non-Maxwellianity are linked to kinetic processes occurring during magnetic reconnection. We also show the simulated non-Maxwellianity agrees reasonably well with predictions for distributions resembling those calculated analytically. These results can be important for applications, as non-Maxwellianity can be used to identify regions of kinetic-scale physics or increased dissipation in plasmas. 
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  8. Abstract

    Electron ring velocity space distributions have previously been seen in numerical simulations of magnetic reconnection exhausts and have been suggested to be caused by the magnetization of the electron outflow jet by the compressed reconnected magnetic fields (Shuster et al., 2014, We present a theory of the dependence of the major and minor radii of the ring distributions solely in terms of upstream (lobe) plasma conditions, thereby allowing a prediction of the associated temperature and temperature anisotropy of the rings in terms of upstream parameters. We test the validity of the prediction using 2.5‐dimensional particle‐in‐cell (PIC) simulations with varying upstream plasma density and temperature, finding excellent agreement between the predicted and simulated values. We confirm the Shuster et al. suggestion for the cause of the ring distributions, and also find that the ring distributions are located in a region marked by a plateau, or shoulder, in the reconnected magnetic field profile. The predictions of the temperature are consistent with observed electron temperatures in dipolarization fronts, and may provide an explanation for the generation of plasma with temperatures in the 10s of MK in super‐hot solar flares. A possible extension of the model to dayside reconnection is discussed. Since ring distributions are known to excite whistler waves, the present results should be useful for quantifying the generation of whistler waves in reconnection exhausts.

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  9. Abstract

    Magnetic reconnection converts, often explosively, stored magnetic energy to particle energy in space and in the laboratory. Through processes operating on length scales that are tiny, it facilitates energy conversion over dimensions of, in some cases, hundreds of Earth radii. In addition, it is the mechanism behind large current disruptions in fusion machines, and it can explain eruptive behavior in astrophysics. We have known about the importance of magnetic reconnection for quite some time based on space observations. Theory and modeling employed magnetized fluids, a very simplistic description. While successful at modeling the large‐scale consequences of reconnection, it is ill suited to describe the engine itself. This is because, at its heart, magnetic reconnection in space is kinetic, that is, governed by the intricate interaction of charged particles with the electromagnetic fields they create. This complex interaction occurs in very localized regions and involves very short temporal variations. Researching reconnection requires the ability to measure these processes as well as to express them in models vastly more complex than fluid approaches. Until very recently, neither of these capabilities existed. With the advent of NASA's Magnetospheric Multiscale mission and modern modeling advances, this has now changed, and we have now determined its small‐scale structure in exquisite detail. In this paper, we review recent research results to predict what will be achieved in the future. We discuss how reconnection contributes to the evolution of larger‐scale systems, and its societal impacts in the context of threatening space hazards, customarily referred to as “space weather.”

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