Fast magnetic reconnection and particle acceleration in relativistic low-density electron-positron plasmas without guide field

Naoki Bessho, A. Bhattacharjee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

53 Scopus citations

Abstract

Magnetic reconnection and particle acceleration in relativistic Harris sheets in low-density electron-positron plasmas with no guide field have been studied by means of two-dimensional particle-in-cell simulations. Reconnection rates are of the order of one when the background density in a Harris sheet is of the order of 1% of the density in the current sheet, which is consistent with previous results in the non-relativistic regime. It has been demonstrated that the increase of the Lorentz factors of accelerated particles significantly enhances the collisionless resistivity needed to sustain a large reconnection electric field. It is shown analytically and numerically that the energy spectrum of accelerated particles near the X-line is the product of a power law and an exponential function of energy, γ-1/4exp (- aγ1/2), where γ is the Lorentz factor and a is a constant. However, in the low-density regime, while the most energetic particles are produced near X-lines, many more particles are energized within magnetic islands. Particles are energized in contracting islands by multiple reflection, but the mechanism is different from Fermi acceleration in magnetic islands for magnetized particles in the presence of a guide field. In magnetic islands, strong core fields are generated and plasma beta values are reduced. As a consequence, the fire-hose instability condition is not satisfied in most of the island region, and island contraction and particle acceleration can continue. In island coalescence, reconnection between two islands can accelerate some particles, however, many particles are decelerated and cooled, which is contrary to what has been discussed in the literature on particle acceleration due to reconnection in non-relativistic hydrogen plasmas.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number129
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Volume750
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - May 10 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science

Keywords

  • acceleration of particles
  • magnetic reconnection
  • methods: numerical
  • plasmas
  • relativistic processes

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