Particle-in-cell simulations of shock-driven reconnection in relativistic striped winds

Lorenzo Sironi, Anatoly Spitkovsky

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17 Scopus citations


By means of two- and three-dimensional particle-in-cell simulations, we investigate the process of driven magnetic reconnection at the termination shock of relativistic striped flows. In pulsar winds and in magnetar-powered relativistic jets, the flow consists of stripes of alternating magnetic field polarity, separated by current sheets of hot plasma. At the wind termination shock, the flow compresses and the alternating fields annihilate by driven magnetic reconnection. Irrespective of the stripe wavelength λ or the wind magnetization (in the regime σ ≫ 1 of magnetically dominated flows), shock-driven reconnection transfers all the magnetic energy of alternating fields to the particles, whose average Lorentz factor increases by a factor of with respect to the pre-shock value. In the limit λ/(r Lσ) ≫ 1, where rL is the relativistic Larmor radius in the wind, the post-shock particle spectrum approaches a flat power-law tail with slope around -1.5, populated by particles accelerated by the reconnection electric field. The presence of a current-aligned 'guide' magnetic field suppresses the acceleration of particles only when the guide field is stronger than the alternating component. Our findings place important constraints on the models of non-thermal radiation from Pulsar Wind Nebulae and relativistic jets.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number014014
JournalComputational Science and Discovery
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Numerical Analysis
  • General Physics and Astronomy
  • Computational Mathematics


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