Steady-State Electrostatic Layers From Weibel Instability in Relativistic Collisionless Shocks

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It is generally accepted that magnetic fields generated in the nonlinear development of the transverse Weibel instability provide effective collisionality in unmagnetized collisionless shocks. Recently, extensive two and three dimensional simulations improved our understanding of the growth and saturation of the instability in colliding plasma shells. However, the steady-state structure of the shock wave transition layers remains poorly understood. We use basic physical considerations and order-of-magnitude arguments to study the steady state structure in relativistic unmagnetized collisionless shocks in pair plasmas. The shock contains an electrostatic layer resulting from the formation of stationary, magnetically-focused current filaments. The filaments form where ... continued below

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9 pages

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Milosavljevic, Milos; Nakar, Ehud; /Caltech; Spitkovsky, Anatoly & /KIPAC, Menlo Park August 4, 2005.

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It is generally accepted that magnetic fields generated in the nonlinear development of the transverse Weibel instability provide effective collisionality in unmagnetized collisionless shocks. Recently, extensive two and three dimensional simulations improved our understanding of the growth and saturation of the instability in colliding plasma shells. However, the steady-state structure of the shock wave transition layers remains poorly understood. We use basic physical considerations and order-of-magnitude arguments to study the steady state structure in relativistic unmagnetized collisionless shocks in pair plasmas. The shock contains an electrostatic layer resulting from the formation of stationary, magnetically-focused current filaments. The filaments form where the cold upstream plasma and the counterstreaming thermal plasma interpenetrate. The filaments are not entirely neutral and strong electrostatic fields are present. Most of the downstream particles cannot cross this layer into the upstream because they are trapped by the electrostatic field. We identify the critical location in the shock transition layer where the electromagnetic field ceases to be static. At this location, the degree of charge separation in the filaments reaches a maximum value, the current inside the filaments comes close to the Alfven limit, and the phase space distribution function starts to isotropize. We argue that the radius of the current filaments upstream of the critical location is about twice the upstream plasma skin depth. Finally, we show that some downstream particles cross the electrostatic layer and run ahead of the shock into the preshock medium without causing instability. These particles may play an important role in particle acceleration.

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9 pages

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  • Report No.: SLAC-PUB-11386
  • Grant Number: AC02-76SF00515
  • DOI: 10.2172/878827 | External Link
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 878827
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc878445

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  • August 4, 2005

Added to The UNT Digital Library

  • Sept. 21, 2016, 2:29 a.m.

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  • Dec. 7, 2016, 9:41 p.m.

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Milosavljevic, Milos; Nakar, Ehud; /Caltech; Spitkovsky, Anatoly & /KIPAC, Menlo Park. Steady-State Electrostatic Layers From Weibel Instability in Relativistic Collisionless Shocks, report, August 4, 2005; [Menlo Park, California]. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc878445/: accessed May 26, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.