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    We investigate the spectral properties of the electromagnetic fluctuations of sub-ion scale turbulence in weakly collisional, low-beta plasmas using a two-field isothermal gyrofluid model. The numerical results strongly support a description of the turbulence as a critically balanced Kolmogorov-like cascade of kinetic Alfvén wave fluctuations, as amended by previous studies to include intermittency effects. The measured universal index of the energy spectra from systems with different flux-unfreezing mechanisms excludes the role of tearing mediation in determining the spectra. The fluctuations remain isotropic in the plane perpendicular to the strong background magnetic fields as they cascade to smaller scales, which explains the absence of tearing mediation. The calculation of high-order, multipoint structure functions of magnetic fluctuations suggests that the intermittent structures have a quasi-2D, sheet-type morphology. These results are useful for explaining recent observations of the spectrum and structure of magnetic and density fluctuations in the solar wind at sub-proton scales, and are relevant for modelling the energy dissipation in a broad range of astrophysical systems.

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  2. Abstract

    Recently, it has been realized that magnetic plasma turbulence and magnetic field reconnection are inherently related phenomena. Turbulent fluctuations generate regions of sheared magnetic field that become unstable to the tearing instability and reconnection, thus modifying turbulence at the corresponding scales. In this contribution, we give a brief review of some recent results on tearing‐mediated magnetic turbulence. We illustrate the main ideas of this rapidly developing field of study by concentrating on two important examples—magnetohydrodynamic Alfvén turbulence and small‐scale kinetic‐Alfvén turbulence. Due to various potential applications of these phenomena in space physics and astrophysics, we specifically try not to overload the text by heavy analytical derivations but rather present a qualitative discussion accessible to a non‐expert in the theories of turbulence and reconnection.

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  3. We report analytical and numerical investigations of subion-scale turbulence in low-beta plasmas using a rigorous reduced kinetic model. We show that efficient electron heating occurs and is primarily due to Landau damping of kinetic Alfvén waves, as opposed to Ohmic dissipation. This collisionless damping is facilitated by the local weakening of advective nonlinearities and the ensuing unimpeded phase mixing near intermittent current sheets, where free energy concentrates. The linearly damped energy of electromagnetic fluctuations at each scale explains the steepening of their energy spectrum with respect to a fluid model where such damping is excluded (i.e., a model that imposes an isothermal electron closure). The use of a Hermite polynomial representation to express the velocity-space dependence of the electron distribution function enables us to obtain an analytical, lowest-order solution for the Hermite moments of the distribution, which is borne out by numerical simulations. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 6, 2024
  4. We study within a fully kinetic framework the generation of “seed” magnetic fields through the Weibel instability, driven in an initially unmagnetized plasma by a large-scale shear force. We develop an analytical model that describes the development of thermal pressure anisotropy via phase mixing, the ensuing exponential growth of magnetic fields in the linear Weibel stage, and the saturation of the Weibel instability when the seed magnetic fields become strong enough to instigate gyromotion of particles and thereby inhibit their free-streaming. The predicted scaling dependencies of the saturated fields on key parameters (e.g., ratio of system scale to electron skin depth and forcing amplitude) are confirmed by two-dimensional and three-dimensional particle-in-cell simulations of an electron–positron plasma. This work demonstrates the spontaneous magnetization of a collisionless plasma through large-scale motions as simple as a shear flow and therefore has important implications for magnetogenesis in dilute astrophysical systems. 
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  5. The physical picture of interacting magnetic islands provides a useful paradigm for certain plasma dynamics in a variety of physical environments, such as the solar corona, the heliosheath and the Earth's magnetosphere. In this work, we derive an island kinetic equation to describe the evolution of the island distribution function (in area and in flux of islands) subject to a collisional integral designed to account for the role of magnetic reconnection during island mergers. This equation is used to study the inverse transfer of magnetic energy through the coalescence of magnetic islands in two dimensions. We solve our island kinetic equation numerically for three different types of initial distribution: Dirac delta, Gaussian and power-law distributions. The time evolution of several key quantities is found to agree well with our analytical predictions: magnetic energy decays as $\tilde {t}^{-1}$ , the number of islands decreases as $\tilde {t}^{-1}$ and the averaged area of islands grows as $\tilde {t}$ , where $\tilde {t}$ is the time normalised to the characteristic reconnection time scale of islands. General properties of the distribution function and the magnetic energy spectrum are also studied. Finally, we discuss the underlying connection of our island-merger models to the (self-similar) decay of magnetohydrodynamic turbulence. 
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  7. null (Ed.)
    We report on an analytical and numerical study of the dynamics of a three-dimensional array of identical magnetic flux tubes in the reduced-magnetohydrodynamic description of the plasma. We propose that the long-time evolution of this system is dictated by flux-tube mergers, and that such mergers are dynamically constrained by the conservation of the pertinent (ideal) invariants, viz. the magnetic potential and axial fluxes of each tube. We also propose that in the direction perpendicular to the merging plane, flux tubes evolve in a critically balanced fashion. These notions allow us to construct an analytical model for how quantities such as the magnetic energy and the energy-containing scale evolve as functions of time. Of particular importance is the conclusion that, like its two-dimensional counterpart, this system exhibits an inverse transfer of magnetic energy that terminates only at the system scale. We perform direct numerical simulations that confirm these predictions and reveal other interesting aspects of the evolution of the system. We find, for example, that the early time evolution is characterized by a sharp decay of the initial magnetic energy, which we attribute to the ubiquitous formation of current sheets. We also show that a quantitatively similar inverse transfer of magnetic energy is observed when the initial condition is a random, small-scale magnetic seed field. 
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  8. null (Ed.)
    Abstract It has been recently shown numerically that there exists an inverse transfer of magnetic energy in decaying, nonhelical, magnetically dominated, magnetohydrodynamic turbulence in 3-dimensions (3D). We suggest that magnetic reconnection is the underlying physical mechanism responsible for this inverse transfer. In the two-dimensional (2D) case, the inverse transfer is easily inferred to be due to smaller magnetic islands merging to form larger ones via reconnection. We find that the scaling behaviour is similar between the 2D and the 3D cases, i.e., the magnetic energy evolves as t−1, and the magnetic power spectrum follows a slope of k−2. We show that on normalizing time by the magnetic reconnection timescale, the evolution curves of the magnetic field in systems with different Lundquist numbers collapse onto one another. Furthermore, transfer function plots show signatures of magnetic reconnection driving the inverse transfer. We also discuss the conserved quantities in the system and show that the behaviour of these quantities is similar between the 2D and 3D simulations, thus making the case that the dynamics in 3D could be approximately explained by what we understand in 2D. Lastly, we also conduct simulations where the magnetic field is subdominant to the flow. Here, too, we find an inverse transfer of magnetic energy in 3D. In these simulations, the magnetic energy evolves as t−1.4 and, interestingly, a dynamo effect is observed. 
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