Mixing the Solar Wind Proton and Electron Scales:Theory and 2D-PIC Simulations of Firehose Instability

López, R. A. and Micera, A. and Lazar, M. and Poedts, S. and Lapenta, G. and Zhukov, A. N. and Boella, E. and Shaaban, S. M. (2022) Mixing the Solar Wind Proton and Electron Scales:Theory and 2D-PIC Simulations of Firehose Instability. The Astrophysical Journal, 930 (2). ISSN 0004-637X

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Firehose-like instabilities (FIs) are cited in multiple astrophysical applications. Of particular interest are the kinetic manifestations in weakly collisional or even collisionless plasmas, where these instabilities are expected to contribute to the evolution of macroscopic parameters. Relatively recent studies have initiated a realistic description of FIs, as induced by the interplay of both species, electrons and protons, dominant in the solar wind plasma. This work complements the current knowledge with new insights from linear theory and the first disclosures from 2D-PIC simulations, identifying the fastest growing modes near the instability thresholds and their long-run consequences on the anisotropic distributions. Thus, unlike previous setups, these conditions are favorable to those aperiodic branches that propagate obliquely to the uniform magnetic field, with (maximum) growth rates higher than periodic, quasi-parallel modes. Theoretical predictions are, in general, confirmed by the simulations. The aperiodic electron FI (a-EFI) remains unaffected by the proton anisotropy, and saturates rapidly at low-level fluctuations. Regarding the FI at proton scales, we see a stronger competition between the periodic and aperiodic branches. For the parameters chosen in our analysis, the aperiodic proton FI (a-PFI) is excited before than the periodic proton FI (p-PFI), with the latter reaching a significantly higher fluctuation power. However, both branches are significantly enhanced by the presence of anisotropic electrons. The interplay between EFIs and PFIs also produces a more pronounced proton isotropization.

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The Astrophysical Journal
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17 May 2022 08:55
Last Modified:
22 Nov 2022 11:27