Simulations of ion acceleration at non-relativistic shocks. i. acceleration efficiency

D. Caprioli, Anatoly Spitkovsky

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399 Scopus citations


We use two-dimensional and three-dimensional hybrid (kinetic ions-fluid electrons) simulations to investigate particle acceleration and magnetic field amplification at non-relativistic astrophysical shocks. We show that diffusive shock acceleration operates for quasi-parallel configurations (i.e., when the background magnetic field is almost aligned with the shock normal) and, for large sonic and Alfvénic Mach numbers, produces universal power-law spectra p -4, where p is the particle momentum. The maximum energy of accelerated ions increases with time, and it is only limited by finite box size and run time. Acceleration is mainly efficient for parallel and quasi-parallel strong shocks, where 10%-20% of the bulk kinetic energy can be converted to energetic particles and becomes ineffective for quasi-perpendicular shocks. Also, the generation of magnetic turbulence correlates with efficient ion acceleration and vanishes for quasi-perpendicular configurations. At very oblique shocks, ions can be accelerated via shock drift acceleration, but they only gain a factor of a few in momentum and their maximum energy does not increase with time. These findings are consistent with the degree of polarization and the morphology of the radio and X-ray synchrotron emission observed, for instance, in the remnant of SN 1006. We also discuss the transition from thermal to non-thermal particles in the ion spectrum (supra-thermal region) and we identify two dynamical signatures peculiar of efficient particle acceleration, namely, the formation of an upstream precursor and the alteration of standard shock jump conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number91
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 10 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • ISM: supernova remnants
  • acceleration of particles
  • magnetic fields
  • shock waves


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