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[en] Particle acceleration is a process of great importance in all areas of plasma physics. In most cases, kinetic effects are dominant and require a full kinetic treatment, such as the particle in cell (PIC) method. PIC methods are widely used in all aspects of plasma physics, proving to be a precious and irreplaceable tool. Yet all methods in use and published conserve energy to a good approximation, but not exactly. A well known property of PIC methods, documented extensively in all textbooks, is that energy is not conserved exactly. In fact, the particle noise is a unphysical source of energy that, when insufficient resolution is used, can make the simulations go unstable. In the present paper, we apply a new exactly energy conserving scheme and demonstrate that indeed exact energy conservation plays a key role in determining the correct spectrum of the accelerated particles.
[en] Reconnection is associated with two bending of the magnetic field lines. Considering the usual plane of a 2D reconnection simulation, the first bending is in-plane and produces the needed topological changes by bringing oppositely directed filed lines in proximity. The second is typical of fast reconnection and is out of plane, leading to the formation of the Hall magnetic field. This second rotation has recently been observed to proceed at superAlfvénic speeds and to carry substantial energy fluxes (Shay et al., Phys. Rev. Lett. 107, 065001 (2011)). We revisit these rotations with a new diagnostics based on dispersing a multitude of virtual probes into a kinetic simulation, akin the approach of multi spacecraft missions. The results of the new diagnostics are compared with the theory of characteristics applied to the two fluid model. The comparison of virtual probes and the method of characteristics confirm the findings relative to the out of plane rotation and uncover the existence of two families of characteristics. Both are observed in the simulation. The early stage of reconnection develops on the slower compressional branch and the later faster phase develops on the faster torsional branch. The superAlfvénic signal is only relevant in the second phase
[en] The electromagnetic energy equation is analyzed term by term in a 3D simulation of kinetic reconnection previously reported by Vapirev et al. [J. Geophys. Res.: Space Phys. 118, 1435 (2013)]. The evolution presents the usual 2D-like topological structures caused by an initial perturbation independent of the third dimension. However, downstream of the reconnection site, where the jetting plasma encounters the yet unperturbed pre-existing plasma, a downstream front is formed and made unstable by the strong density gradient and the unfavorable local acceleration field. The energy exchange between plasma and fields is most intense at the instability, reaching several pW/m3, alternating between load (energy going from fields to particles) and generator (energy going from particles to fields) regions. Energy exchange is instead purely that of a load at the reconnection site itself in a region focused around the x-line and elongated along the separatrix surfaces. Poynting fluxes are generated at all energy exchange regions and travel away from the reconnection site transporting an energy signal of the order of about S≈10−3W/m2
[en] We carried out global Particle-in-Cell simulations of the interaction between the solar wind and a magnetosphere to study the kinetic collisionless physics in super-critical quasi-perpendicular shocks. After an initial simulation transient, a collisionless bow shock forms as a result of the interaction of the solar wind and a planet magnetic dipole. The shock ramp has a thickness of approximately one ion skin depth and is followed by a trailing wave train in the shock downstream. At the downstream edge of the bow shock, whistler waves propagate along the magnetic field lines and the presence of electron cyclotron waves has been identified. A small part of the solar wind ion population is specularly reflected by the shock while a larger part is deflected and heated by the shock. Solar wind ions and electrons are heated in the perpendicular directions. Ions are accelerated in the perpendicular direction in the trailing wave train region. This work is an initial effort to study the electron and ion kinetic effects developed near the bow shock in a realistic magnetic field configuration
[en] Reconnection outflows are highly energetic directed flows that interact with the ambient plasma or with flows from other reconnection regions. Under these conditions the flow becomes highly unstable and chaotic, as any flow jets interacting with a medium. We report here massively parallel simulations of the two cases of interaction between outflow jets and between a single outflow with an ambient plasma. We find in both case the development of a chaotic magnetic field, subject to secondary reconnection events that further complicate the topology of the field lines. The focus of the present analysis is on the energy balance. We compute each energy channel (electromagnetic, bulk, thermal, for each species) and find where the most energy is exchanged and in what form. The main finding is that the largest energy exchange is not at the reconnection site proper but in the regions where the outflowing jets are destabilized. (paper)
[en] We use kinetic particle-in-cell and MHD simulations supported by an observational data set to investigate magnetic reconnection in clusters of null points in space plasma. The magnetic configuration under investigation is driven by fast adiabatic flux rope compression that dissipates almost half of the initial magnetic field energy. In this phase powerful currents are excited producing secondary instabilities, and the system is brought into a state of “intermittent turbulence” within a few ion gyro-periods. Reconnection events are distributed all over the simulation domain and energy dissipation is rather volume-filling. Numerous spiral null points interconnected via their spines form null lines embedded into magnetic flux ropes; null point pairs demonstrate the signatures of torsional spine reconnection. However, energy dissipation mainly happens in the shear layers formed by adjacent flux ropes with oppositely directed currents. In these regions radial null pairs are spontaneously emerging and vanishing, associated with electron streams and small-scale current sheets. The number of spiral nulls in the simulation outweighs the number of radial nulls by a factor of 5–10, in accordance with Cluster observations in the Earth's magnetosheath. Twisted magnetic fields with embedded spiral null points might indicate the regions of major energy dissipation for future space missions such as the Magnetospheric Multiscale Mission
[en] We present the design and implementation of a spectral code, called SpectralPlasmaSolver (SPS), for the solution of the multi-dimensional Vlasov-Maxwell equations. The method is based on a Hermite-Fourier decomposition of the particle distribution function. The code is written in Fortran and uses the PETSc library for solving the non-linear equations and preconditioning and the FFTW library for the convolutions. SPS is parallelized for shared- memory machines using OpenMP. As a verification example, we discuss simulations of the two-dimensional Orszag-Tang vortex problem and successfully compare them against a fully kinetic Particle-In-Cell simulation. An assessment of the performance of the code is presented, showing a significant improvement in the code running-time achieved by preconditioning, while strong scaling tests show a factor of 10 speed-up using 16 threads. (paper)
[en] We present a systematic attempt to study magnetic null points and the associated magnetic energy conversion in kinetic particle-in-cell simulations of various plasma configurations. We address three-dimensional simulations performed with the semi-implicit kinetic electromagnetic code iPic3D in different setups: variations of a Harris current sheet, dipolar and quadrupolar magnetospheres interacting with the solar wind, and a relaxing turbulent configuration with multiple null points. Spiral nulls are more likely created in space plasmas: in all our simulations except lunar magnetic anomaly (LMA) and quadrupolar mini-magnetosphere the number of spiral nulls prevails over the number of radial nulls by a factor of 3–9. We show that often magnetic nulls do not indicate the regions of intensive energy dissipation. Energy dissipation events caused by topological bifurcations at radial nulls are rather rare and short-lived. The so-called X-lines formed by the radial nulls in the Harris current sheet and LMA simulations are rather stable and do not exhibit any energy dissipation. Energy dissipation is more powerful in the vicinity of spiral nulls enclosed by magnetic flux ropes with strong currents at their axes (their cross sections resemble 2D magnetic islands). These null lines reminiscent of Z-pinches efficiently dissipate magnetic energy due to secondary instabilities such as the two-stream or kinking instability, accompanied by changes in magnetic topology. Current enhancements accompanied by spiral nulls may signal magnetic energy conversion sites in the observational data
[en] The relaxation of a collisionless plasma is not regulated by the usual collisional Boltzmann equation and its related H-theorem. The interactions are long range and the collisions are not instantaneous. A direct simulation approach is presented for measuring by computer experiment what the relaxed distribution is. The conclusion of the analysis is that the relaxed distribution includes both a low energy component that is well described using the usual Boltzmann distribution and a high energy tail described using a power law. The results of the simulation study are compared directly with the model recently proposed by Kaniadakis (2002 Phys. Rev. E 66 056125). The observed cumulative distribution function is well reproduced by the theory
[en] The cometary mission Rosetta has shown the presence of higher-than-expected suprathermal electron fluxes. In this study, using 3D fully kinetic electromagnetic simulations of the interaction of the solar wind with a comet, we constrain the kinetic mechanism that is responsible for the bulk electron energization that creates the suprathermal distribution from the warm background of solar wind electrons. We identify and characterize the magnetic field-aligned ambipolar electric field that ensures quasi-neutrality and traps warm electrons. Solar wind electrons are accelerated to energies as high as 50–70 eV close to the comet nucleus without the need for wave–particle or turbulent heating mechanisms. We find that the accelerating potential controls the parallel electron temperature, total density, and (to a lesser degree) the perpendicular electron temperature and the magnetic field magnitude. Our self-consistent approach enables us to better understand the underlying plasma processes that govern the near-comet plasma environment.