Ref: SCART-2020-0051

Particle-in-cell simulations of the whistler heat-flux instability in the solar wind conditions

Lopez, R. A. ; Shaaban, S. M. ; Lazar, M. ; Poedts, S. ; Yoon, P. H. ; Micera, A. ; Lapenta, G.

published in ApJL, 882 issue 1, pp. L8

Abstract: In collision-poor plasmas from space, e.g., solar wind or stellar outflows, the heat flux carried by the strahl or beaming electrons is expected to be regulated by the self-generated instabilities. Recently, simultaneous field and particle observations have indeed revealed enhanced whistler-like fluctuations in the presence of counter-beaming populations of electrons, connecting these fluctuations to the whistler heat-flux instability (WHFI). This instability is predicted only for limited conditions of electron beam-plasmas, and has not yet been captured in numerical simulations. In this Letter we report the first simulations of WHFI in particle-in-cell setups, realistic for the solar wind conditions, and without temperature gradients or anisotropies to trigger the instability in the initiation phase. The velocity distributions have a complex reaction to the enhanced whistler fluctuations conditioning the instability saturation by a decrease of the relative drifts combined with induced (effective) temperature anisotropies (heating the core electrons and pitch-angle and energy scattering the strahl). These results are in good agreement with a recent quasilinear approach, and support therefore a largely accepted belief that WHFI saturates at moderate amplitudes. In the anti-sunward direction the strahl becomes skewed with a pitch-angle distribution decreasing in width as electron energy increases, which seems to be characteristic of self-generated whistlers and not to small-scale turbulence.

Keyword(s): methods: numerical; plasmas; solar wind; waves; instabilities; interplanetary medium; Physics - Plasma Physics; Astrophysics - Solar and Stellar Astrophysics; Physics - Space Physics
DOI: 10.3847/2041-8213/ab398b

The record appears in these collections:
Royal Observatory of Belgium > Solar Physics & Space Weather (SIDC)
Science Articles > Peer Reviewed Articles

 Record created 2020-02-03, last modified 2020-02-03