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  1. Abstract

    Relativistic magnetized jets, such as those from AGN, GRBs, and XRBs, are susceptible to current- and pressure-driven MHD instabilities that can lead to particle acceleration and nonthermal radiation. Here, we investigate the development of these instabilities through 3D kinetic simulations of cylindrically symmetric equilibria involving toroidal magnetic fields with electron–positron pair plasma. Generalizing recent treatments by Alves et al. and Davelaar et al., we consider a range of initial structures in which the force due to toroidal magnetic field is balanced by a combination of forces due to axial magnetic field and gas pressure. We argue that the particle energy limit identified by Alves et al. is due to the finite duration of the fast magnetic dissipation phase. We find a rather minor role of electric fields parallel to the local magnetic fields in particle acceleration. In all investigated cases, a kink mode arises in the central core region with a growth timescale consistent with the predictions of linearized MHD models. In the case of a gas-pressure-balanced (Z-pinch) profile, we identify a weak local pinch mode well outside the jet core. We argue that pressure-driven modes are important for relativistic jets, in regions where sufficient gas pressure is producedmore »by other dissipation mechanisms.

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    Sgr A* exhibits flares in the near-infrared and X-ray bands, with the luminosity in these bands increasing by factors of 10–100 for ≈60 min. One of the models proposed to explain these flares is synchrotron emission of non-thermal particles accelerated by magnetic reconnection events in the accretion flow. We use the results from particle-in-cell simulations of magnetic reconnection to post-process 3D two-temperature GRMHD simulations of a magnetically arrested disc (MAD). We identify current sheets, retrieve their properties, estimate their potential to accelerate non-thermal particles, and compute the expected non-thermal synchrotron emission. We find that the flux eruptions of MADs can provide suitable conditions for accelerating non-thermal particles to energies γe ≲ 106 and producing simultaneous X-ray and near-infrared flares. For a suitable choice of current-sheet parameters and a simplified synchrotron cooling prescription, the model can simultaneously reproduce the quiescent and flaring X-ray luminosities as well as the X-ray spectral shape. While the near-infrared flares are mainly due to an increase in the temperature near the black hole during the MAD flux eruptions, the X-ray emission comes from narrow current sheets bordering highly magnetized, low-density regions near the black hole, and equatorial current sheets where the flux on the blackmore »hole reconnects. As a result, not all infrared flares are accompanied by X-ray ones. The non-thermal flaring emission can extend to very hard (≲ 100 keV) X-ray energies.

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    Magnetically arrested accretion discs (MADs) around black holes (BHs) have the potential to stimulate the production of powerful jets and account for recent ultra-high-resolution observations of BH environments. Their main properties are usually attributed to the accumulation of dynamically significant net magnetic (vertical) flux throughout the arrested region, which is then regulated by interchange instabilities. Here, we propose instead that it is mainly a dynamically important toroidal field – the result of dynamo action triggered by the significant but still relatively weak vertical field – that defines and regulates the properties of MADs. We suggest that rapid convection-like instabilities, involving interchange of toroidal flux tubes and operating concurrently with the magnetorotational instability (MRI), can regulate the structure of the disc and the escape of net flux. We generalize the convective stability criteria and disc structure equations to include the effects of a strong toroidal field and show that convective flows could be driven towards two distinct marginally stable states, one of which we associate with MADs. We confirm the plausibility of our theoretical model by comparing its quantitative predictions to simulations of both MAD and SANE (standard and normal evolution; strongly magnetized but not ‘arrested’) discs, and suggest amore »set of criteria that could help to distinguish MADs from other accretion states. Contrary to previous claims in the literature, we argue that MRI is not suppressed in MADs and is probably responsible for the existence of the strong toroidal field.

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  4. Abstract Astrophysical jets, launched from the immediate vicinity of accreting black holes, carry away large amounts of power in a form of bulk kinetic energy of jet particles and electromagnetic flux. Here we consider a simple analytical model for relativistic jets at larger distances from their launching sites, assuming a cylindrical axisymmetric geometry with a radial velocity shear, and purely toroidal magnetic field. We argue that as long as the jet plasma is in magnetohydrostatic equilibrium, such outflows tend to be particle dominated, i.e., the ratio of the electromagnetic to particle energy flux, integrated over the jet cross-sectional area, is typically below unity, σ < 1. At the same time, for particular magnetic and radial velocity profiles, magnetic pressure may still dominate over particle pressure for certain ranges of the jet radius, i.e., the local jet plasma parameter β pl < 1, and this may be relevant in the context of particle acceleration and production of high-energy emission in such systems. The jet magnetization parameter can be elevated up to the modest values of σ ≲  ( 10 ) only in the case of extreme gradients or discontinuities in the gaseous pressure, and a significantly suppressed velocity shear. Suchmore »configurations, which consist of a narrow, unmagnetized jet spine surrounded by an extended, force-free layer, may require an additional poloidal field component to stabilize them against current-driven oscillations, but even this will not substantially elevate their σ parameter.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available April 1, 2023
  5. Abstract Instabilities in a neutron star can generate Alfvén waves in its magnetosphere. Propagation along the curved magnetic field lines strongly shears the wave, boosting its electric current j A . We derive an analytic expression for the evolution of the wavevector k and the growth of j A . In the strongly sheared regime, j A may exceed the maximum current j 0 that can be supported by the background e ± plasma. We investigate these charge-starved waves, first using a simplified two-fluid analytic model, then with first-principles kinetic simulations. We find that the Alfvén wave is able to propagate successfully even when κ ≡ j A / j 0 ≫ 1. It sustains j A by compressing and advecting the plasma along the magnetic field lines with an increasing Lorentz factor, γ ≳ κ 1/2 . The simulations show how plasma instabilities lead to gradual dissipation of the wave energy. Our results suggest that an extremely high charge-starvation parameter κ ≳ 10 4 may be required in order for this mechanism to power the observed fast radio bursts (FRBs) from SGR 1935+2154. However, cosmological FRBs with much higher luminosities are unlikely to be a result of charge-starvation.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available April 1, 2023
  6. Magnetic reconnection, especially in the relativistic regime, provides an efficient mechanism for accelerating relativistic particles and thus offers an attractive physical explanation for non-thermal high-energy emission from various astrophysical sources. I present a simple analytical model that elucidates key physical processes responsible for reconnection-driven relativistic non-thermal particle acceleration in the large-system, plasmoid-dominated regime in two dimensions. The model aims to explain the numerically observed dependencies of the power-law index $p$ and high-energy cutoff $\gamma _c$ of the resulting non-thermal particle energy spectrum $f(\gamma )$ on the ambient plasma magnetization $\sigma$ , and (for $\gamma _c$ ) on the system size $L$ . In this self-similar model, energetic particles are continuously accelerated by the out-of-plane reconnection electric field $E_{\rm rec}$ until they become magnetized by the reconnected magnetic field and eventually trapped in plasmoids large enough to confine them. The model also includes diffusive Fermi acceleration by particle bouncing off rapidly moving plasmoids. I argue that the balance between electric acceleration and magnetization controls the power-law index, while trapping in plasmoids governs the cutoff, thus tying the particle energy spectrum to the plasmoid distribution.
  7. Magnetic reconnection, a plasma process converting magnetic energy to particle kinetic energy, is often invoked to explain magnetic energy releases powering high-energy flares in astrophysical sources including pulsar wind nebulae and black hole jets. Reconnection is usually seen as the (essentially two-dimensional) nonlinear evolution of the tearing instability disrupting a thin current sheet. To test how this process operates in three dimensions, we conduct a comprehensive particle-in-cell simulation study comparing two- and three-dimensional evolution of long, thin current sheets in moderately magnetized, collisionless, relativistically hot electron–positron plasma, and find dramatic differences. We first systematically characterize this process in two dimensions, where classic, hierarchical plasmoid-chain reconnection determines energy release, and explore a wide range of initial configurations, guide magnetic field strengths and system sizes. We then show that three-dimensional (3-D) simulations of similar configurations exhibit a diversity of behaviours, including some where energy release is determined by the nonlinear relativistic drift-kink instability. Thus, 3-D current sheet evolution is not always fundamentally classical reconnection with perturbing 3-D effects but, rather, a complex interplay of multiple linear and nonlinear instabilities whose relative importance depends sensitively on the ambient plasma, minor configuration details and even stochastic events. It often yields slower but longer-lasting andmore »ultimately greater magnetic energy release than in two dimensions. Intriguingly, non-thermal particle acceleration is astonishingly robust, depending on the upstream magnetization and guide field, but otherwise yielding similar particle energy spectra in two and three dimensions. Although the variety of underlying current sheet behaviours is interesting, the similarities in overall energy release and particle spectra may be more remarkable.« less
  8. ABSTRACT Turbulent high-energy astrophysical systems often feature asymmetric energy injection: for instance, Alfvén waves propagating from an accretion disc into its corona. Such systems are ‘imbalanced’: the energy fluxes parallel and antiparallel to the large-scale magnetic field are unequal. In the past, numerical studies of imbalanced turbulence have focused on the magnetohydrodynamic regime. In this study, we investigate externally driven imbalanced turbulence in a collision-less, ultrarelativistically hot, magnetized pair plasma using 3D particle-in-cell (PIC) simulations. We find that the injected electromagnetic momentum efficiently converts into plasma momentum, resulting in net motion along the background magnetic field with speeds up to a significant fraction of lightspeed. This discovery has important implications for the launching of accretion disc winds. We also find that although particle acceleration in imbalanced turbulence operates on a slower time-scale than in balanced turbulence, it ultimately produces a power-law energy distribution similar to balanced turbulence. Our results have ramifications for black hole accretion disc coronae, winds, and jets.
  9. ABSTRACT Relativistic magnetic reconnection is a powerful agent through which magnetic energy can be tapped in astrophysics, energizing particles that then produce observed radiation. In some systems, the highest energy photons come from particles Comptonizing an ambient radiation bath supplied by an external source. If the emitting particle energies are high enough, this inverse Compton (IC) scattering enters the Klein–Nishina regime, which differs from the low-energy Thomson IC limit in two significant ways. First, radiative losses become inherently discrete, with particles delivering an order-unity fraction of their energies to single photons. Secondly, Comptonized photons may pair produce with the ambient radiation, opening up another channel for radiative feedback on magnetic reconnection. We analytically study externally illuminated highly magnetized reconnecting systems for which both of these effects are important. We identify a universal (initial magnetization-independent) quasi-steady state in which gamma-rays emitted from the reconnection layer are absorbed in the upstream region, and the resulting hot pairs dominate the energy density of the inflow plasma. However, a true pair cascade is unlikely, and the number density of created pairs remains subdominant to that of the original plasma for a wide parameter range. Future particle-in-cell simulation studies may test various aspects. Pair-regulated Klein–Nishinamore »reconnection may explain steep spectra (quiescent and flaring) from flat-spectrum radio quasars and black hole accretion disc coronae.« less
  10. Abstract We use the public code ebhlight to carry out 3D radiative general relativistic magnetohydrodynamics (GRMHD) simulations of accretion on to the supermassive black hole in M87. The simulations self-consistently evolve a frequency-dependent Monte Carlo description of the radiation field produced by the accretion flow. We explore two limits of accumulated magnetic flux at the black hole (SANE and MAD), each coupled to several subgrid prescriptions for electron heating that are motivated by models of turbulence and magnetic reconnection. We present convergence studies for the radiation field and study its properties. We find that the near-horizon photon energy density is an order of magnitude higher than is predicted by simple isotropic estimates from the observed luminosity. The radially dependent photon momentum distribution is anisotropic and can be modeled by a set of point-sources near the equatorial plane. We draw properties of the radiation and magnetic field from the simulation and feed them into an analytic model of gap acceleration to estimate the very high energy (VHE) γ-ray luminosity from the magnetized jet funnel, assuming that a gap is able to form. We find luminosities of $\rm \sim 10^{41} \, erg \, s^{-1}$ for MAD models and $\rm \sim 2\times 10^{40}more »\, erg \, s^{-1}$ for SANE models, which are comparable to measurements of M87’s VHE flares. The time-dependence seen in our calculations is insufficient to explain the flaring behaviour. Our results provide a step towards bridging theoretical models of near-horizon properties seen in black hole images with the VHE activity of M87.« less