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  1. Abstract

    We present the results of 3D particle-in-cell simulations that explore relativistic magnetic reconnection in pair plasma with strong synchrotron cooling and a small mass fraction of nonradiating ions. Our results demonstrate that the structure of the current sheet is highly sensitive to the dynamic efficiency of radiative cooling. Specifically, stronger cooling leads to more significant compression of the plasma and magnetic field within the plasmoids. We demonstrate that ions can be efficiently accelerated to energies exceeding the plasma magnetization parameter, ≫σ, and form a hard power-law energy distribution,fiγ−1. This conclusion implies a highly efficient proton acceleration in the magnetospheres of young pulsars. Conversely, the energies of pairs are limited to eitherσin the strong cooling regime or the radiation burnoff limit,γsyn, when cooling is weak. We find that the high-energy radiation from pairs above the synchrotron burnoff limit,εc≈ 16 MeV, is only efficiently produced in the strong cooling regime,γsyn<σ. In this regime, we find that the spectral cutoff scales asεcutεc(σ/γsyn) and the highest energy photons are beamed along the direction of the upstream magnetic field, consistent with the phenomenological models of gamma-ray emission from young pulsars. Furthermore, our results place constraints on the reconnection-driven models of gamma-ray flares in the Crab Nebula.

     
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 1, 2024
  2. Abstract

    We present the results of 3D particle-in-cell simulations that explore relativistic magnetic reconnection in pair plasma with strong synchrotron cooling and a small mass fraction of nonradiating ions. Our results demonstrate that the structure of the current sheet is highly sensitive to the dynamic efficiency of radiative cooling. Specifically, stronger cooling leads to more significant compression of the plasma and magnetic field within the plasmoids. We demonstrate that ions can be efficiently accelerated to energies exceeding the plasma magnetization parameter, ≫σ, and form a hard power-law energy distribution,fiγ−1. This conclusion implies a highly efficient proton acceleration in the magnetospheres of young pulsars. Conversely, the energies of pairs are limited to eitherσin the strong cooling regime or the radiation burnoff limit,γsyn, when cooling is weak. We find that the high-energy radiation from pairs above the synchrotron burnoff limit,εc≈ 16 MeV, is only efficiently produced in the strong cooling regime,γsyn<σ. In this regime, we find that the spectral cutoff scales asεcutεc(σ/γsyn) and the highest energy photons are beamed along the direction of the upstream magnetic field, consistent with the phenomenological models of gamma-ray emission from young pulsars. Furthermore, our results place constraints on the reconnection-driven models of gamma-ray flares in the Crab Nebula.

     
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  3. Abstract

    Low-collisionality plasma in a magnetic field generically develops anisotropy in its distribution function with respect to the magnetic field direction. Motivated by the application to radiation from accretion flows and jets, we explore the effect of temperature anisotropy on synchrotron emission. We derive analytically and provide numerical fits for the polarized synchrotron emission and absorption coefficients for a relativistic bi-Maxwellian plasma (we do not consider Faraday conversion/rotation). Temperature anisotropy can significantly change how the synchrotron emission and absorption coefficients depend on observing angle with respect to the magnetic field. The emitted linear polarization fraction does not depend strongly on anisotropy, while the emitted circular polarization does. We apply our results to black hole imaging of Sgr A* and M87* by ray tracing a GRMHD simulation and assuming that the plasma temperature anisotropy is set by the thresholds of kinetic-scale anisotropy-driven instabilities. We find that the azimuthal asymmetry of the 230 GHz images can change by up to a factor of 3, accentuating (T>T) or counteracting (T<T) the image asymmetry produced by Doppler beaming. This can change the physical inferences from observations relative to models with an isotropic distribution function, e.g., by allowing for larger inclination between the line of sight and spin direction in Sgr A*. The observed image diameter and the size of the black hole shadow can also vary significantly due to plasma temperature anisotropy. We describe how the anisotropy of the plasma can affect future multifrequency and photon ring observations. We also calculate kinetic anisotropy-driven instabilities (mirror, whistler, and firehose) for relativistically hot plasmas.

     
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  4. Abstract

    The presence of magnetic fields in the late inspiral of black hole–neutron star binaries could lead to potentially detectable electromagnetic precursor transients. Using general-relativistic force-free electrodynamics simulations, we investigate premerger interactions of the common magnetosphere of black hole–neutron star systems. We demonstrate that these systems can feature copious electromagnetic flaring activity, which we find depends on the magnetic field orientation but not on black hole spin. Due to interactions with the surrounding magnetosphere, these flares could lead to fast-radio-burst-like transients and X-ray emission, withEM1041B*/1012G2ergs1as an upper bound on the luminosity, whereB*is the magnetic field strength on the surface of the neutron star.

     
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  5. ABSTRACT

    In general relativistic magnetohydrodynamic (GRMHD) simulations, accreted magnetic flux on the black hole horizon episodically decays, during which magnetic reconnection heats up the plasma near the horizon, potentially powering high-energy flares like those observed in M87* and Sgr A*. We study the mm observational counterparts of such flaring episodes in very high resolution GRMHD simulations. The change in 230 GHz flux during the expected high energy flares depends primarily on the efficiency of accelerating γ ≳ 100 (Te ≳ 1011 K) electrons. For models in which the electrons are heated to Te ∼ 1011 K during flares, the hot plasma produced by reconnection significantly enhances 230 GHz emission and increases the size of the 230 GHz image. By contrast, for models in which the electrons are heated to higher temperatures (which we argue are better motivated), the reconnection-heated plasma is too hot to produce significant 230 GHz synchrotron emission, and the 230 GHz flux decreases during high energy flares. We do not find a significant change in the mm polarization during flares as long as the emission is Faraday thin. We also present expectations for the ring-shaped image as observed by the Event Horizon Telescope during flares, as well as multiwavelength synchrotron spectra. Our results highlight several limitations of standard post-processing prescriptions for the electron temperature in GRMHD simulations. We also discuss the implications of our results for current and future observations of flares in Sgr A*, M87*, and related systems. Appendices contain detailed convergence studies with respect to resolution and plasma magnetization.

     
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  6. 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. 
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  7. ABSTRACT

    The nature of cosmic ray (CR) transport in the Milky Way remains elusive. The predictions of current microphysical CR transport models in magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) turbulence are drastically different from what is observed. These models usually focus on MHD turbulence with a strong guide field and ignore the impact of turbulent intermittency on particle propagation. This motivates our studying the alternative regime of large-amplitude turbulence with δB/B0 ≫ 1, in which intermittent small-scale magnetic field reversals are ubiquitous. We study particle transport in such turbulence by integrating trajectories in stationary snapshots. To quantify spatial diffusion, we use a set-up with continuous particle injection and escape, which we term the turbulent leaky box. We find that particle transport is very different from the strong guide-field case. Low-energy particles are better confined than high-energy particles, despite less efficient pitch-angle isotropization at small energies. In the limit of weak guide field, energy-dependent confinement is driven by the energy-dependent (in)ability to follow reversing magnetic field lines exactly and by the scattering in regions of ‘resonant curvature’, where the field line bends on a scale that is of the order of the local particle gyro-radius. We derive a heuristic model of particle transport in magnetic folds that approximately reproduces the energy dependence of transport found numerically. We speculate that CR propagation in the Galaxy is regulated by the intermittent field reversals highlighted here and discuss the implications of our findings for CR transport in the Milky Way.

     
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  8. Abstract

    Some of the most energetic pulsars exhibit rotation-modulatedγ-ray emission in the 0.1–100 GeV band. The luminosity of this emission is typically 0.1%–10% of the pulsar spin-down power (γ-ray efficiency), implying that a significant fraction of the available electromagnetic energy is dissipated in the magnetosphere and reradiated as high-energy photons. To investigate this phenomenon we model a pulsar magnetosphere using 3D particle-in-cell simulations with strong synchrotron cooling. We particularly focus on the dynamics of the equatorial current sheet where magnetic reconnection and energy dissipation take place. Our simulations demonstrate that a fraction of the spin-down power dissipated in the magnetospheric current sheet is controlled by the rate of magnetic reconnection at microphysical plasma scales and only depends on the pulsar inclination angle. We demonstrate that the maximum energy and the distribution function of accelerated pairs is controlled by the available magnetic energy per particle near the current sheet, the magnetization parameter. The shape and the extent of the plasma distribution is imprinted in the observed synchrotron emission, in particular, in the peak and the cutoff of the observed spectrum. We study how the strength of synchrotron cooling affects the observed variety of spectral shapes. Our conclusions naturally explain why pulsars with higher spin-down power have wider spectral shapes and, as a result, lowerγ-ray efficiency.

     
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