Resonance broadening and heating of charged particles in magnetohydrodynamic turbulence

Jacob W. Lynn, Ian J. Parrish, Eliot Quataert, Benjamin D.G. Chandran

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35 Scopus citations


The heating, acceleration, and pitch-angle scattering of charged particles by magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) turbulence are important in a wide range of astrophysical environments, including the solar wind, accreting black holes, and galaxy clusters. We simulate the interaction of high-gyrofrequency test particles with fully dynamical simulations of subsonic MHD turbulence, focusing on the parameter regime with β ∼ 1, where β is the ratio of gas to magnetic pressure. We use the simulation results to calibrate analytical expressions for test particle velocity-space diffusion coefficients and provide simple fits that can be used in other work. The test particle velocity diffusion in our simulations is due to a combination of two processes: interactions between particles and magnetic compressions in the turbulence (as in linear transit-time damping; TTD) and what we refer to as Fermi Type-B (FTB) interactions, in which charged particles moving on field lines may be thought of as beads sliding along moving wires. We show that test particle heating rates are consistent with a TTD resonance that is broadened according to a decorrelation prescription that is Gaussian in time (but inconsistent with Lorentzian broadening due to an exponential decorrelation function, a prescription widely used in the literature). TTD dominates the heating for vs ≫ vA (e.g., electrons), where vs is the thermal speed of species s and vA is the Alfvén speed, while FTB dominates for vs ≪ vA (e.g., minor ions). Proton heating rates for β ∼ 1 are comparable to the turbulent cascade rate. Finally, we show that velocity diffusion of collisionless, large gyrofrequency particles due to large-scale MHD turbulence does not produce a power-law distribution function.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number78
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Oct 20 2012
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • acceleration of particles
  • magnetohydrodynamics (MHD)
  • plasmas
  • solar wind
  • turbulence


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