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The Universe is permeated by hot, turbulent, magnetized plasmas. Turbulent plasma is a major constituent of active galactic nuclei, supernova remnants, the intergalactic and interstellar medium, the solar corona, the solar wind and the Earth’s magnetosphere, just to mention a few examples. Energy dissipation of turbulent fluctuations plays a key role in plasma heating and energization, yet we still do not understand the underlying physical mechanisms involved. THOR is a mission designed to answer the questions of how turbulent plasma is heated and particles accelerated, how the dissipated energy is partitioned and how dissipation operates in different regimes of turbulence. THOR is a single-spacecraft mission with an orbit tuned to maximize data return from regions in near-Earth space – magnetosheath, shock, foreshock and pristine solar wind – featuring different kinds of turbulence. Here we summarize the THOR proposal submitted on 15 January 2015 to the ‘Call for a Medium-size mission opportunity in ESAs Science Programme for a launch in 2025 (M4)’. THOR has been selected by European Space Agency (ESA) for the study phase.
We carried out a 3D fully kinetic simulation of Earth's magnetotail magnetic reconnection to study the dynamics of energetic particles. We developed and implemented a new relativistic particle mover in iPIC3D, an implicit Particle-in-Cell code, to correctly model the dynamics of energetic particles. Before the onset of magnetic reconnection, energetic electrons are found localized close to current sheet and accelerated by lower hybrid drift instability. During magnetic reconnection, energetic particles are found in the reconnection region along the x-line and in the separatrices region. The energetic electrons are first present in localized stripes of the separatrices and finally cover all the separatrix surfaces. Along the separatrices, regions with strong electron deceleration are found. In the reconnection region, two categories of electron trajectory are identified. First, part of the electrons are trapped in the reconnection region, bouncing a few times between the outflow jets. Second, part of the electrons pass the reconnection region without being trapped. Different from electrons, energetic ions are localized on the reconnection fronts of the outflow jets.
Nonlinear wave-driven processes in plasmas are normally described by either a monochromatic pump wave that couples to other monochromatic waves, or as a random phase wave coupling to other random phase waves. An alternative approach involves a random or broadband pump coupling to monochromatic and/or coherent structures in the plasma. This approach can be implemented through the wave-kinetic model. In this model, the incoming pump wave is described by either a bunch (for coherent waves) or a sea (for random phase waves) of quasi-particles. This approach has been applied to both photon acceleration in laser wakefields and drift wave turbulence in magnetized plasma edge configurations. Numerical simulations have been compared to experiments, varying from photon acceleration to drift mode-zonal flow turbulence, and good qualitative correspondences have been found in all cases.
Plasma filamentation is often encountered in collisionless shocks and inertial confinement fusion. We develop a general analytical description of the two-dimensional relativistic filamentary equilibrium and derive the conditions for existence of potential-free equilibria. A pseudopotential equation for the vector-potential is constructed for cold and relativistic Maxwellian distributions. The role of counter-streaming is explained. We present single current sheet and periodic current sheet solutions, and analyze the equilibria with electric potential. These solutions can be used to study linear and nonlinear evolution of the relativistic filamentation instability.
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