Electron dynamics surrounding the X-line in asymmetric magnetic reconnection [CL]


Electron dynamics surrounding the X-line in magnetopause-type asymmetric reconnection is investigated using a two-dimensional particle-in-cell simulation. We study electron properties of three characteristic regions in the vicinity of the X-line. The fluid properties, velocity distribution functions (VDFs), and orbits are studied and cross-compared. In the low-$\beta$ side of the X-line, the normal electric field enhances the electron meandering motion from the high-$\beta$ side. The motion leads to a crescent-shaped component in the electron VDF, in agreement with recent studies. In the high-$\beta$ side of the X-line, the magnetic field line is so stretched in the third dimension that its curvature radius is comparable with typical electron Larmor radius. The electron motion becomes nonadiabatic, and therefore the electron idealness is no longer expected to hold. Around the middle of the outflow regions, the electron nonidealness is coincident with the region of the nonadiabatic motion. Finally, we introduce a finite-time mixing fraction (FTMF) to evaluate electron mixing. The FTMF marks the low-$\beta$ side of the X-line, where the nonideal energy dissipation occurs.

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S. Zenitani, H. Hasegawa and T. Nagai
Fri, 24 Feb 17

Comments: Comments are welcome

How Anomalous Resistivity Accelerates Magnetic Reconnection [CL]


Whether Turbulence-induced anomalous resistivity (AR) can facilitate a fast magnetic reconnection in collisionless plasma is a subject of active debate for decades. A particularly difficult problem in experimental and numerical simulation studies of the problem is how to distinguish the effects of AR from those originating from Hall-effect and other non-turbulent processes in the generalized Ohm’s. In this paper, using particle-in-cell simulations, we present a case study of how AR produced by Buneman Instability accelerates magnetic reconnection. We first show that in a thin current layer, the AR produced by Buneman instability spontaneously breaks the magnetic field lines and causes impulsive fast non-Hall magnetic line annihilation on electron-scales with a rate reaching 0.6~$V_A$. However, the electron-scale magnetic line annihilation is not a necessary condition for the dissipation of magnetic energy, but rather a result of the inhomogeneity of the AR. On the other hand, the inhomogeneous drag arising from a Buneman instability driven by the intense electron beams at the x-line in a 3D magnetic reconnection can drive in the electron diffusion region electron-scale magnetic line annihilation. The electron-scale annihilations play an essential role in accelerating the magnetic reconnection with a rate two times faster than the non-turbulent Hall-dominated 2D magnetic reconnection. The reconnection rate is enhanced around the x-line, and the coupling between the AR carried out by the reconnection outflow and the Hall effect leads to the breaking of the symmetric structure of the ion diffusion region and the enhancement of the outward Poynting flux.

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H. Che
Tue, 21 Feb 17

Comments: submitted to Physics of Plasma

A Maximum Entropy Principle for inferring the Distribution of 3D Plasmoids [HEAP]


The Principle of Maximum Entropy, a powerful and general method for inferring the distribution function given a set of constraints, is applied to deduce the overall distribution of plasmoids (flux ropes/tubes). The analysis is undertaken for the general 3D case, with mass, total flux and (3D) velocity serving as the variables of interest, on account of their physical and observational relevance. The distribution functions for the mass, width, total flux and helicity exhibit a power-law behavior with exponents of $-4/3$, $-2$, $-3$ and $-2$ respectively for small values, whilst all of them display an exponential falloff for large values. In contrast, the velocity distribution, as a function of $v = |{\bf v}|$, is shown to be flat for $v \rightarrow 0$, and becomes a power law with an exponent of $-7/3$ for $v \rightarrow \infty$. Most of these results exhibit a high degree of universality, as they are nearly independent of the free parameters. A preliminary comparison of our results with the observational evidence is presented, and some of the ensuing space and astrophysical implications are discussed.

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M. Lingam, L. Comisso and A. Bhattacharjee
Tue, 21 Feb 17

Comments: 15 pages, 6 figures

SHARP: A Spatially Higher-order, Relativistic Particle-in-Cell Code [CL]


Numerical heating in particle-in-cell (PIC) codes currently precludes the accurate simulation of cold, relativistic plasma over long periods, severely limiting their applications in astrophysical environments. We present a spatially higher order accurate relativistic PIC algorithm in one spatial dimension which conserves charge and momentum exactly. We utilize the smoothness implied by the usage of higher order interpolation functions to achieve a spatially higher order accurate algorithm (up to 5th order). We validate our algorithm against several test problems — thermal stability of stationary plasma, stability of linear plasma waves, and two-stream instability in the relativistic and non-relativistic regimes. Comparing our simulations to exact solutions of the dispersion relations, we demonstrate that SHARP can quantitatively reproduce important kinetic features of the linear regime. Our simulations have a superior ability to control energy non-conservation and avoid numerical heating in comparison to common second order schemes. We provide a natural definition for convergence of a general PIC algorithm: the complement of physical modes captured by the simulation, i.e., lie above the Poisson noise, must grow commensurately with the resolution. This implies that it is necessary to simultaneously increase the number of particles per cell and decrease the cell size. We demonstrate that traditional ways for testing for convergence fail, leading to plateauing of the energy error. This new PIC code enables to faithfully study the long-term evolution of plasma problems that require absolute control of the energy and momentum conservation.

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M. Shalaby, A. Broderick, P. Chang, et. al.
Fri, 17 Feb 17

Comments: 25 pages, 18 figures, submitted to ApJ

Electric current filamentation induced by 3D plasma flows in the solar corona [SSA]


Many magnetic structures in the solar atmosphere evolve rather slowly so that they can be assumed as (quasi-)static or (quasi-)stationary and represented via magneto-hydrostatic (MHS) or stationary magneto-hydrodynamic (MHD) equilibria, respectively. While exact 3D solutions would be desired, they are extremely difficult to find in stationary MHD. We construct solutions with magnetic and flow vector fields that have three components depending on all three coordinates. We show that the non-canonical transformation method produces quasi-3D solutions of stationary MHD by mapping 2D or 2.5D MHS equilibria to corresponding stationary MHD states, i.e., states that display the same field line structure as the original MHS equilibria. These stationary MHD states exist on magnetic flux surfaces of the original 2D MHS states. Although the flux surfaces and therefore also the equilibria have a 2D character, these stationary MHD states depend on all three coordinates and display highly complex currents. The existence of geometrically complex 3D currents within symmetric field-line structures provide the base for efficient dissipation of the magnetic energy in the solar corona by Ohmic heating. We also discuss the possibility of maintaining an important subset of non-linear MHS states, namely force-free fields, by stationary flows. We find that force-free fields with non-linear flows only arise under severe restrictions of the field-line geometry and of the magnetic flux density distribution.

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D. Nickeler, T. Wiegelmann, M. Karlicky, et. al.
Wed, 15 Feb 17

Comments: 14 pages, 5 figures, accepted to ApJ

On the origin of the crescent-shaped distributions observed by MMS at the magnetopause [CL]


MMS observations recently confirmed that crescent-shaped electron velocity distributions in the plane perpendicular to the magnetic field occur in the electron diffusion region near reconnection sites at Earth’s magnetopause. In this paper, we re-examine the origin of the crescent-shaped distributions in the light of our new finding that ions and electrons are drifting in opposite directions when displayed in magnetopause boundary-normal coordinates. Therefore, ExB drifts cannot cause the crescent shapes. We performed a high-resolution multi-scale simulation capturing sub-electron skin depth scales. The results suggest that the crescent-shaped distributions are caused by meandering orbits without necessarily requiring any additional processes found at the magnetopause such as the highly asymmetric magnetopause ambipolar electric field. We use an adiabatic Hamiltonian model of particle motion to confirm that conservation of canonical momentum in the presence of magnetic field gradients causes the formation of crescent shapes without invoking asymmetries or the presence of an ExB drift. An important consequence of this finding is that we expect crescent-shaped distributions also to be observed in the magnetotail, a prediction that MMS will soon be able to test.

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G. Lapenta, J. Berchem, M. Zhou, et. al.
Tue, 14 Feb 17

Comments: to appear on J. Geophys. Res

Numerical modeling of laser-driven experiments aiming to demonstrate magnetic field amplification via turbulent dynamo [CL]


The universe is permeated by magnetic fields, with strengths ranging from a femtogauss in the voids between the filaments of galaxy clusters to several teragauss in black holes and neutron stars. The standard model behind cosmological magnetic fields is the nonlinear amplification of seed fields via turbulent dynamo to the values observed. We have conceived experiments that aim to demonstrate and study the turbulent dynamo mechanism in the laboratory. Here we describe the design of these experiments through simulation campaigns using FLASH, a highly capable radiation magnetohydrodynamics code that we have developed, and large-scale three-dimensional simulations on the Mira supercomputer at Argonne National Laboratory. The simulation results indicate that the experimental platform may be capable of reaching a turbulent plasma state and study dynamo amplification. We validate and compare our numerical results with a small subset of experimental data using synthetic diagnostics.

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P. Tzeferacos, A. Rigby, A. Bott, et. al.
Mon, 13 Feb 17

Comments: Accepted for publication on Physics of Plasmas, 15 pages 12 figures