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The nature of the turbulent energy transfer rate is studied using direct numerical simulations of weakly collisional space plasmas. This is done comparing results obtained from hybrid Vlasov–Maxwell simulations of collisionless plasmas, Hall magnetohydrodynamics and Landau fluid models reproducing low-frequency kinetic effects, such as the Landau damping. In this turbulent scenario, estimates of the local and global scaling properties of different energy channels are obtained using a proxy of the local energy transfer. This approach provides information on the structure of energy fluxes, under the assumption that the turbulent cascade transfers most of the energy that is then dissipated at small scales by various kinetic processes in these kinds of plasmas.
The deviation from thermodynamic equilibrium of the ion velocity distribution functions (VDFs), as measured by the Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) mission in the Earth’s turbulent magnetosheath, is quantitatively investigated. Making use of the unprecedented high-resolution MMS ion data, and together with Vlasov–Maxwell simulations, this analysis aims at investigating the relationship between deviation from Maxwellian equilibrium and typical plasma parameters. Correlations of the non-Maxwellian features with plasma quantities such as electric fields, ion temperature, current density and ion vorticity are found to be similar in magnetosheath data and numerical experiments, with a poor correlation between distortions of ion VDFs and current density, evidence that questions the occurrence of VDF departure from Maxwellian at the current density peaks. Moreover, strong correlation has been observed with the magnitude of the electric field in the turbulent magnetosheath, while a certain degree of correlation has been found in the numerical simulations and during a magnetopause crossing by MMS. This work could help shed light on the influence of electrostatic waves on the distortion of the ion VDFs in space turbulent plasmas.
Reconnection outflows have been under intense recent scrutiny, from in situ observations and from simulations. These regions are host to a variety of instabilities and intense energy exchanges, often even superior to the main reconnection site. We report here a number of results drawn from an investigation of simulations. First, the outflows are observed to become unstable to drift instabilities. Second, these instabilities lead to the formation of secondary reconnection sites. Third, the secondary processes are responsible for large energy exchanges and particle energization. Finally, the particle distribution function are modified to become non-Maxwellian and include multiple interpenetrating populations.
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.
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