Adaptive Critical Balance and Firehose Instability in an Expanding, Turbulent, Collisionless Plasma

A. F.A. Bott, L. Arzamasskiy, M. W. Kunz, E. Quataert, J. Squire

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Using a hybrid-kinetic particle-in-cell simulation, we study the evolution of an expanding, collisionless, magnetized plasma in which strong Alfvénic turbulence is persistently driven. Temperature anisotropy generated adiabatically by the plasma expansion (and consequent decrease in the mean magnetic-field strength) gradually reduces the effective elasticity of the field lines, causing reductions in the linear frequency and residual energy of the Alfvénic fluctuations. In response, these fluctuations modify their interactions and spatial anisotropy to maintain a scale-by-scale "critical balance"between their characteristic linear and nonlinear frequencies. Eventually the plasma becomes unstable to kinetic firehose instabilities, which excite rapidly growing magnetic fluctuations at ion-Larmor scales. The consequent pitch-angle scattering of particles maintains the temperature anisotropy near marginal stability, even as the turbulent plasma continues to expand. The resulting evolution of parallel and perpendicular temperatures does not satisfy double-adiabatic conservation laws, but is described accurately by a simple model that includes anomalous scattering. Our results have implications for understanding the complex interplay between macro- and microscale physics in various hot, dilute, astrophysical plasmas, and offer predictions concerning power spectra, residual energy, ion-Larmor-scale spectral breaks, and non-Maxwellian features in ion distribution functions that may be tested by measurements taken in high-beta regions of the solar wind.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberL35
JournalAstrophysical Journal Letters
Volume922
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science

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