Comparison between hybrid and fully kinetic models of asymmetric magnetic reconnection: Coplanar and guide field configurations
ADS Link, DOI
Aunai, Nicolas, Hesse, Michael, Zenitani, Seiji,
Kuznetsova, Maria, Black, Carrie, Evans, Rebekah and Smets, Roch
Magnetic reconnection occurring in collisionless environments is a multi-scale process involving both ion and electron kinetic processes. Because of their small mass, the electron scales are difficult to resolve in numerical and satellite data, it is therefore critical to know whether the overall evolution of the reconnection process is influenced by the kinetic nature of the electrons, or is unchanged when assuming a simpler, fluid, electron model. This paper investigates this issue in the general context of an asymmetric current sheet, where both the magnetic field amplitude and the density vary through the discontinuity. A comparison is made between fully kinetic and hybrid kinetic simulations of magnetic reconnection in coplanar and guide field systems. The models share the initial condition but differ in their electron modeling. It is found that the overall evolution of the system, including the reconnection rate, is very similar between both models. The best agreement is found in the guide field system, which confines particle better than the coplanar one, where the locality of the moments is violated by the electron bounce motion. It is also shown that, contrary to the common understanding, reconnection is much faster in the guide field system than in the coplanar one. Both models show this tendency, indicating that the phenomenon is driven by ion kinetic effects and not electron ones.
Electric and magnetic contributions to spatial diffusion in collisionless plasmas
ADS link, DOI
Smets, R., Belmont, G., Aunai, N.
We investigate the role played by the different self-consistent fluctuations for particle diffusion in a magnetized plasma. We focus especially on the contribution of the electric fluctuations and how it combines with the (already investigated) magnetic fluctuations and with the velocity fluctuations. For that issue, we compute with a hybrid code the value of the diffusion coefficient perpendicular to the mean magnetic field and its dependence on the particle velocity. This study is restricted to small to intermediate level of electromagnetic fluctuations and focuses on particle velocities on the order of few times the Alfvén speed. We briefly discuss the consequences for cosmic ray modulation and for the penetration of thermal solar wind particles in the Earth magnetosphere.
I had the pleasure to receive the award “René Pellat” from the french society of Physics (Société Française de Physique, SFP) for the work done in my PhD. In May 2012, I was invited to give a talk at the 12th meeting of the plasma division of SFP, in Orléans, France.
Kinetic equilibrium for an asymmetric tangential layer
(ADS Link, DOI)
Belmont, G., Aunai, N., and Smets, R.
Finding kinetic (Vlasov) equilibria for tangential current layers is a long standing problem, especially in the context of reconnection studies, when the magnetic field reverses. Its solution is of pivotal interest for both theoretical and technical reasons when such layers must be used for initializing kinetic simulations. The famous Harris equilibrium is known to be limited to symmetric layers surrounded by vacuum, with constant ion and electron flow velocities, and with current variation purely dependent on density variation. It is clearly not suited for the “magnetopause-like” layers, which separate two plasmas of different densities and temperatures, and for which the localization of the current density j=nδv is due to the localization of the electron-to-ion velocity difference δv and not of the density n. We present here a practical method for constructing a Vlasov stationary solution in the asymmetric case, extending the standard theoretical methods based on the particle motion invariants. We show that, in the case investigated of a coplanar reversal of the magnetic field without electrostatic field, the distribution function must necessarily be a multi-valued function of the invariants to get asymmetric profiles for the plasma parameters together with a symmetric current profile. We show also how the concept of “accessibility” makes these multi-valued functions possible, due to the particle excursion inside the layer being limited by the Larmor radius. In the presented method, the current profile across the layer is chosen as an input, while the ion density and temperature profiles in between the two asymptotic imposed values are a result of the calculation. It is shown that, assuming the distribution is continuous along the layer normal, these profiles have always a more complex profile than the profile of the current density and extends on a larger thickness. The different components of the pressure tensor are also outputs of the calculation and some conclusions concerning the symmetries of this tensor are pointed out.
Energy budgets in collisionless magnetic reconnection: Ion heating and bulk acceleration (ADS Link, DOI)
Aunai, N.; Belmont, G.; Smets, R.
This paper investigates the energy transfer in the process of collisionless antiparallel magnetic reconnection. Using two-dimensional hybrid simulations, we measure the increase of the bulk and thermal kinetic energies and compare it to the loss of magnetic energy through a contour surrounding the ion decoupling region. It is shown, for both symmetric and asymmetric configurations, that the loss of magnetic energy is not equally partitioned between heating and acceleration. The heating is found to be dominant and the partition ratio depends on the asymptotic parameters, and future investigations will be needed to understand this dependence.
The proton pressure tensor as a new proxy of the proton decoupling region in collisionless magnetic reconnection (ADS link, DOI)
Aunai, N.; Retinò, A.; Belmont, G.; Smets, R.; Lavraud, B.; Vaivads, A.
Cluster data is analyzed to test the proton pressure tensor variations as a proxy of the proton decoupling region in collisionless magnetic reconnection. The Hall electric potential well created in the proton decoupling region results in bounce trajectories of the protons which appears as a characteristic variation of one of the in-plane off-diagonal components of the proton pressure tensor in this region. The event studied in this paper is found to be consistent with classical Hall field signatures with a possible 20% guide field. Moreover, correlations between this pressure tensor component, magnetic field and bulk flow are proposed and validated, together with the expected counterstreaming proton distribution functions.
I had my PhD defense on Feb. 11 2011 in Ecole Polytechnique, Palaiseau, France. The topic is “Numerical simulation of magnetic reconnection : kinetic mechanisms behind the fluid description”. (Link)