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Particle transport, acceleration and energization are phenomena of major importance for both space and laboratory plasmas. Despite years of study, an accurate theoretical description of these effects is still lacking. Validating models with self-consistent, kinetic simulations represents today a new challenge for the description of weakly collisional, turbulent plasmas. We perform simulations of steady state turbulence in the 2.5-dimensional approximation (three-dimensional fields that depend only on two-dimensional spatial directions). The chosen plasma parameters allow to span different systems, going from the solar corona to the solar wind, from the Earth’s magnetosheath to confinement devices. To describe the ion diffusion we adapted the nonlinear guiding centre (NLGC) theory to the two-dimensional case. Finally, we investigated the local influence of coherent structures on particle energization and acceleration: current sheets play an important role if the ions’ Larmor radii are of the order of the current sheet’s size. This resonance-like process leads to the violation of the magnetic moment conservation, eventually enhancing the velocity-space diffusion.
The analysis of the Parker–Moffatt problem, recently revisited in Pezzi
et al. (Astrophys. J., vol. 834,
2017, p. 166), is here extended by including Hall magnetohydrodynamics and two
hybrid kinetic Vlasov–Maxwell numerical models. The presence of dispersive and
kinetic features is studied in detail and a comparison between the two kinetic codes
is also reported. Focus on the presence of non-Maxwellian signatures shows that
– during the collision – regions characterized by strong temperature
anisotropy are recovered and the proton distribution function displays a beam along
the direction of the magnetic field, similar to some recent observations of the solar
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.
A Hybrid Vlasov–Maxwell (HVM) model is presented and recent results about the link between kinetic effects and turbulence are reviewed. Using five-dimensional (2D in space and 3D in the velocity space) simulations of plasma turbulence, it is found that kinetic effects (or non-fluid effects) manifest through the deformation of the proton velocity distribution function (DF), with patterns of non-Maxwellian features being concentrated near regions of strong magnetic gradients. The direction of the proper temperature anisotropy, calculated in the main reference frame of the distribution itself, has a finite probability of being along or across the ambient magnetic field, in general agreement with the classical definition of anisotropy T⊥/T∥ (where subscripts refer to the magnetic field direction). Adopting the latter conventional definition, by varying the global plasma beta (β) and fluctuation level, simulations explore distinct regions of the space given by T⊥/T∥ and β∥, recovering solar wind observations. Moreover, as in the solar wind, HVM simulations suggest that proton anisotropy is not only associated with magnetic intermittent events, but also with gradient-type structures in the flow and in the density. The role of alpha particles is reviewed using multi-ion kinetic simulations, revealing a similarity between proton and helium non-Maxwellian effects. The techniques presented here are applied to 1D spacecraft-like analysis, establishing a link between non-fluid phenomena and solar wind magnetic discontinuities. Finally, the dimensionality of turbulence is investigated, for the first time, via 6D HVM simulations (3D in both spaces). These preliminary results provide support for several previously reported studies based on 2.5D simulations, confirming several basic conclusions. This connection between kinetic features and turbulence open a new path on the study of processes such as heating, particle acceleration, and temperature-anisotropy, commonly observed in space plasmas.
The evolution of the turbulent properties in the solar wind, during the travel of the parcels of fluid from the Sun to the outer heliosphere still has several unanswered questions. In this work, we will present results of an study on the dynamical evolution of turbulent magnetic fluctuations in the inner heliosphere. We focused on the anisotropy of the turbulence integral scale, measured parallel and perpendicular to the direction of the local mean magnetic field, and study its evolution according to the aging of the plasma parcels observed at different heliodistances. As diagnostic tool we employed single-spacecraft correlation functions computed with observations collected by Helios 1 & 2 probes over nearly one solar cycle. Our results are consistent with driving modes with wave-vectors parallel to the direction of the local mean magnetic field near the Sun, and a progressive spectral transfer of energy to modes with perpendicular wave-vectors. Advances made in this direction, as those presented here, will contribute to our understanding of the magnetohydrodynamical turbulence and Alfvénic-wave activity for this system, and will provide a quantitative input for models of charged solar and galactic energetic particles propagation and diffusion throughout the inner heliosphere.
An incompressible, dissipative numerical code of the spectral type is used to follow the nonlinear evolution of a magnetohydrodynamic sheet pinch in two spatial dimensions. The evolution involves considerable turbulent activity in the electric current field, with the excited spatial scales ranging from the size of the containing volume down to the dissipation lengths of the magnetic and velocity fields. Strong current filamentation near magnetic X-points is observed, as is lsquo;jetting’, or expulsion of magnetofluid from the vicinity of the X-point parallel to the current sheet.
The equations of high- and low-beta reduced magnetohydrodynamics (RMHD) are considered anew in order to elucidate the relationship between compressible MHD and RMHD and also to distinguish RMHD from recently developed models of nearly incompressible MHD. Our results, summarized in two theorems, provide the conditions under which RMHD represents a valid reduction of compressible MHD. The equations for low-beta RMHD and high-beta RMHD are shown to be identical. Furthermore, as a direct consequence of our analysis, the conditions under which both two-dimensional incompressible MHD (in terms of the spatial co-ordinates as well as the fluid variables) and 2½ dimensional incompressible MHD (i.e. only two-dimensional in the spatial co-ordinates) represent a valid reduction of three-dimensional compressible MHD are also formulated. It is found that the elimination of all high-frequency and long-wavelength modes from the magneto-fluid reduces the fully compressible MHD equations to either two-dimensional incompressible MHD in the plasma beta (β) limit β ≪ 1, or 2½-dimensional incompressible MHD for β ≈ 1. Our approach clarifies several inconsistencies to be found in previous investigations in that the reduction is exact. Our results and analysis are expected to be of interest for plasma fusion and space and solar physics.
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