RECONNECTION AND ELECTRON TEMPERATURE ANISOTROPY IN SUB-PROTON SCALE PLASMA TURBULENCE
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Knowledge of turbulent behavior at sub-proton scales in magnetized plasmas is important for a full understanding of the energetics of astrophysical flows such as the solar wind. We study the formation of electron temperature anisotropy due to reconnection in the turbulent decay of sub-proton scale fluctuations using two-dimensional, particle-in-cell plasma simulations with a realistic electron-proton mass ratio and a guide field perpendicular to the simulation plane. A power spectrum fluctuation with approximately power-law form is created down to scales of the order of the electron gyroradius. We identify the signatures of collisionless reconnection at sites of X-point field geometry in the dynamic magnetic field topology, which gradually relaxes in complexity. The reconnection sites are generally associated with regions of strong parallel electron temperature anisotropy. The evolving topology of magnetic field lines connected to a reconnection site allows for the spatial mixing of electrons accelerated at multiple, spatially separated reconnection regions. This leads to the formation of multi-peaked velocity distribution functions with strong parallel temperature anisotropy. In a three-dimensional system that can support the appropriate wave vectors, the multi-peaked distribution functions would be expected to be unstable to kinetic instabilities, contributing to dissipation. The proposed mechanism of anisotropy formation is also relevant to space and astrophysical systems where the evolution of the plasma is constrained by linear temperature anisotropy instability thresholds. The presence of reconnection sites leads to electron energy gain, nonlocal velocity space mixing, and the formation of strong temperature anisotropy; this is evidence of an important role for reconnection in the dissipation of turbulent fluctuations.
AuthorsHaynes, CT; Burgess, D; Camporeale, E
- College Publications