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  1. Abstract

    The origins of the various outbursts of hard X-rays from magnetars (highly magnetized neutron stars) are still unknown. We identify instabilities in relativistic magnetospheres that can explain a range of X-ray flare luminosities. Crustal surface motions can twist the magnetar magnetosphere by shifting the frozen-in footpoints of magnetic field lines in current-carrying flux bundles. Axisymmetric (2D) magnetospheres exhibit strong eruptive dynamics, i.e., catastrophic lateral instabilities triggered by a critical footpoint displacement ofψcritπ. In contrast, our new three-dimensional (3D) twist models with finite surface extension capture important non-axisymmetric dynamics of twisted force-free flux bundles in dipolar magnetospheres. Besides the well-established global eruption resulting (as in 2D) from lateral instabilities, such 3D structures can develop helical, kink-like dynamics, and dissipate energy locally (confined eruptions). Up to 25% of the induced twist energy is dissipated and available to power X-ray flares in powerful global eruptions, with most of our models showing an energy release in the range of the most common X-ray outbursts, ≲1043erg. Such events occur when significant energy builds up while deeply buried in the dipole magnetosphere. Less energetic outbursts likely precede powerful flares, due to intermittent instabilities and confined eruptions of a continuously twisting flux tube. Upon reaching a critical state, global eruptions produce the necessary Poynting-flux-dominated outflows required by models prescribing the fast radio burst production in the magnetar wind—for example, via relativistic magnetic reconnection or shocks.

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  2. Abstract

    Active galactic nuclei in general, and the supermassive black hole in M87 in particular, show bright and rapid gamma-ray flares up to energies of 100 GeV and above. For M87, the flares show multiwavelength components, and the variability timescale is comparable to the dynamical time of the event horizon, suggesting that the emission may come from a compact region near the nucleus. However, the emission mechanism for these flares is not well understood. Recent high-resolution general-relativistic magnetohydrodynamic simulations show the occurrence of episodic magnetic reconnection events that can power flares near the black hole event horizon. In this work, we analyze the radiative properties of the reconnecting current layer under the extreme plasma conditions applicable to the black hole in M87 from first principles. We show that abundant pair production is expected in the vicinity of the reconnection layer, to the extent that the produced secondary pair plasma dominates the reconnection dynamics. Using analytic estimates backed by two-dimensional particle-in-cell simulations, we demonstrate that in the presence of strong synchrotron cooling, reconnection can produce a hard power-law distribution of pair plasma imprinted in the outgoing synchrotron (up to a few tens of MeV) and the inverse-Compton signal (up to TeV). We produce synthetic radiation spectra from our simulations, which can be directly compared with the results of future multiwavelength observations of M87* flares.

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  3. 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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    The radiation drag in photon-rich environments of cosmic explosions can seed kinetic instabilities by inducing velocity spreads between relativistically streaming plasma components. Such microturbulence is likely imprinted on the breakout signals of radiation-mediated shocks. However, large-scale, transverse magnetic fields in the deceleration region of the shock transition can suppress the dominant kinetic instabilities by preventing the development of velocity separations between electron–positron pairs and a heavy ion species. We use a 1D five-fluid radiative transfer code to generate self-consistent profiles of the radiation drag force and plasma composition in the deceleration region. For increasing magnetization, our models predict rapidly growing pair multiplicities and a substantial radiative drag developing self-similarly throughout the deceleration region. We extract the critical magnetization parameter σc, determining the limiting magnetic field strength at which a three-species plasma can develop kinetic instabilities before reaching the isotropized downstream. For a relativistic, single ion plasma drifting with γu = 10 in the upstream of a relativistic radiation-mediated shock, we find the threshold σc ≈ 10−7 for the onset of microturbulence. Suppression of plasma instabilities in the case of multi-ion composition would likely require much higher values of σc. Identifying high-energy signatures of microturbulence in shock breakout signals and combining them with the magnetization limits provided in this work will allow a deeper understanding of the magnetic environment of cosmic explosions like supernovae, gamma-ray bursts, and neutron star binary mergers.

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  5. Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 1, 2024
  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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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available May 1, 2024