On the Growth and Saturation of the Gyroresonant Streaming Instabilities

Cole Holcomb, Anatoly Spitkovsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


The self-regulation of cosmic-ray (CR) transport in the interstellar and intracluster media has long been viewed through the lenses of linear and quasi-linear kinetic plasma physics. Such theories are believed to capture the essence of CR behavior in the presence of self-generated turbulence but cannot describe potentially critical details arising from the nonlinearities of the problem. We utilize the particle-in-cell numerical method to study the time-dependent nonlinear behavior of the gyroresonant streaming instabilities, self-consistently following the combined evolution of particle distributions and self-generated wave spectra in one-dimensional periodic simulations. We demonstrate that the early growth of instability conforms to the predictions from linear physics, but that the late-time behavior can vary depending on the properties of the initial CR distribution. We emphasize that the nonlinear stages of instability depend strongly on the initial anisotropy of CRs - highly anisotropic CR distributions do not efficiently reduce to Alfvénic drift velocities, owing to reduced production of left-handed resonant modes. We derive estimates for the wave amplitudes at saturation and the timescales for nonlinear relaxation of the CR distribution and then demonstrate the applicability of these estimates to our simulations. Bulk flows of the background plasma due to the presence of resonant waves are observed in our simulations, confirming the microphysical basis of CR-driven winds.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number3
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 1 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • cosmic rays
  • instabilities
  • magnetic fields
  • plasmas
  • solar wind
  • turbulence


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