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  1. Abstract

    We compare hybrid (kinetic proton, fluid electron) and particle-in-cell (kinetic proton, kinetic electron) simulations of the solar wind termination shock with parameters similar to those observed by Voyager 2 during its crossing. The steady-state results show excellent agreement between the downstream variations in the density, plasma velocity, and magnetic field. The quasi-perpendicular shock accelerates interstellar pickup ions to a maximum energy limited by the size of the computational domain, with somewhat higher fluxes and maximal energies observed in the particle-in-cell simulation, likely due to differences in the cross-shock electric field arising from electron kinetic-scale effects. The higher fluxes may help address recent discrepancies noted between observations and large-scale hybrid simulations.

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  2. Abstract

    We conduct two-dimensional particle-in-cell simulations to investigate the scattering of electron heat flux by self-generated oblique electromagnetic waves. The heat flux is modeled as a bi-kappa distribution with aT>Ttemperature anisotropy maintained by continuous injection at the boundaries. The anisotropic distribution excites oblique whistler waves and filamentary-like Weibel instabilities. Electron velocity distributions taken after the system has reached a steady state show that these instabilities inhibit the heat flux and drive the total distributions toward isotropy. Electron trajectories in velocity space show a circular-like diffusion along constant energy surfaces in the wave frame. The key parameter controlling the scattering rate is the average speed, or drift speedvd, of the heat flux compared with the electron Alfvén speedvAe, with higher drift speeds producing stronger fluctuations and a more significant reduction of the heat flux. Reducing the density of the electrons carrying the heat flux by 50% does not significantly affect the scattering rate. A scaling law for the electron scattering rate versusvd/vAeis deduced from the simulations. The implications of these results for understanding energetic electron transport during energy release in solar flares are discussed.

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  3. Abstract The fast solar wind that fills the heliosphere originates from deep within regions of open magnetic field on the Sun called ‘coronal holes’. The energy source responsible for accelerating the plasma is widely debated; however, there is evidence that it is ultimately magnetic in nature, with candidate mechanisms including wave heating 1,2 and interchange reconnection 3–5 . The coronal magnetic field near the solar surface is structured on scales associated with ‘supergranulation’ convection cells, whereby descending flows create intense fields. The energy density in these ‘network’ magnetic field bundles is a candidate energy source for the wind. Here we report measurements of fast solar wind streams from the Parker Solar Probe (PSP) spacecraft 6 that provide strong evidence for the interchange reconnection mechanism. We show that the supergranulation structure at the coronal base remains imprinted in the near-Sun solar wind, resulting in asymmetric patches of magnetic ‘switchbacks’ 7,8 and bursty wind streams with power-law-like energetic ion spectra to beyond 100 keV. Computer simulations of interchange reconnection support key features of the observations, including the ion spectra. Important characteristics of interchange reconnection in the low corona are inferred from the data, including that the reconnection is collisionless and that the energy release rate is sufficient to power the fast wind. In this scenario, magnetic reconnection is continuous and the wind is driven by both the resulting plasma pressure and the radial Alfvénic flow bursts. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 8, 2024
  4. 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
  5. Abstract We present EUV solar observations showing evidence for omnipresent jetting activity driven by small-scale magnetic reconnection at the base of the solar corona. We argue that the physical mechanism that heats and drives the solar wind at its source is ubiquitous magnetic reconnection in the form of small-scale jetting activity (a.k.a. jetlets). This jetting activity, like the solar wind and the heating of the coronal plasma, is ubiquitous regardless of the solar cycle phase. Each event arises from small-scale reconnection of opposite-polarity magnetic fields producing a short-lived jet of hot plasma and Alfvén waves into the corona. The discrete nature of these jetlet events leads to intermittent outflows from the corona, which homogenize as they propagate away from the Sun and form the solar wind. This discovery establishes the importance of small-scale magnetic reconnection in solar and stellar atmospheres in understanding ubiquitous phenomena such as coronal heating and solar wind acceleration. Based on previous analyses linking the switchbacks to the magnetic network, we also argue that these new observations might provide the link between the magnetic activity at the base of the corona and the switchback solar wind phenomenon. These new observations need to be put in the bigger picture of the role of magnetic reconnection and the diverse form of jetting in the solar atmosphere. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available March 1, 2024
  6. 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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  8. Abstract

    The formation, development, and impact of slow shocks in the upstream regions of reconnecting current layers are explored. Slow shocks have been documented in the upstream regions of magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) simulations of magnetic reconnection as well as in similar simulations with thekglobalkinetic macroscale simulation model. They are therefore a candidate mechanism for preheating the plasma that is injected into the current layers that facilitate magnetic energy release in solar flares. Of particular interest is their potential role in producing the hot thermal component of electrons in flares. During multi-island reconnection, the formation and merging of flux ropes in the reconnecting current layer drives plasma flows and pressure disturbances in the upstream region. These pressure disturbances steepen into slow shocks that propagate along the reconnecting component of the magnetic field and satisfy the expected Rankine–Hugoniot jump conditions. Plasma heating arises from both compression across the shock and the parallel electric field that develops to maintain charge neutrality in a kinetic system. Shocks are weaker at lower plasmaβ, where shock steepening is slow. While these upstream slow shocks are intrinsic to the dynamics of multi-island reconnection, their contribution to electron heating remains relatively minor compared with that from Fermi reflection and the parallel electric fields that bound the reconnection outflow.

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  9. 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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  10. Abstract Transport equations for electron thermal energy in the high- β e intracluster medium (ICM) are developed that include scattering from both classical collisions and self-generated whistler waves. The calculation employs an expansion of the kinetic electron equation along the ambient magnetic field in the limit of strong scattering and assumes whistler waves with low phase speeds V w ∼ v te / β e ≪ v te dominate the turbulent spectrum, with v te the electron thermal speed and β e ≫ 1 the ratio of electron thermal to magnetic pressure. We find: (1) temperature-gradient-driven whistlers dominate classical scattering when L c > L / β e , with L c the classical electron mean free path and L the electron temperature scale length, and (2) in the whistler-dominated regime the electron thermal flux is controlled by both advection at V w and a comparable diffusive term. The findings suggest whistlers limit electron heat flux over large regions of the ICM, including locations unstable to isobaric condensation. Consequences include: (1) the Field length decreases, extending the domain of thermal instability to smaller length scales, (2) the heat flux temperature dependence changes from T e 7 / 2 / L to V w nT e ∼ T e 1 / 2 , (3) the magneto-thermal- and heat-flux-driven buoyancy instabilities are impaired or completely inhibited, and (4) sound waves in the ICM propagate greater distances, as inferred from observations. This description of thermal transport can be used in macroscale ICM models. 
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