Theses Doctoral

Electron Energization in Solar Wind Shocks and the Intracluster Medium

Tran, Aaron

Solar wind shocks and the intracluster medium comprise hot, low-density plasmas with few Coulomb collisions. Electrons there are not fluid and so gain and exchange energy by interaction with a variety of plasma waves. We explore two mechanisms for electron energization in such plasmas.

In 2D kinetic simulations of solar wind shocks with low beta (magnetic pressure greater than thermal pressure), fast-mode / oblique-whistler waves accelerate electrons in bulk via proton-scale parallel electric fields; electrons’ bulk kinetic energy then converts to heat via magnetic field-aligned electrostatic wave scattering. We show and measure the heating for 2D shocks of varying magnetic obliquity and Mach number, and we qualitatively map the mechanism’s shock parameter regime.

Next, consider the intracluster medium: a high-beta plasma (thermal pressure greater than magnetic pressure) in which Megaparsec-scale motions promptly trigger nanoparsec-scale plasma waves, which in turn can scatter 1–100 MeV cosmic ray electrons. Small-scale scattering combined with large-scale motion can heat electrons, and this process is called magnetic pumping. We use 1D simulations of plasma subjected to continuous bulk compression to measure the efficiency of magnetic pumping upon cosmic ray electrons. It is speculated that magnetic pumping may help re-accelerate MeV electrons to radio-emitting energies and so help explain the origin of diffuse, MHz–GHz radio halos enshrouding some clusters of galaxies.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Sironi, Lorenzo
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
July 5, 2023