Kinetic investigation of the impulsive penetration of 2D plasma elements into the Earth's magnetosphere

by Echim, Marius

Abstract (Summary)
In this thesis I investigate the dynamics of charged particles and plasma into non-uniform distributions of the electric and magnetic fields. In the first part attention is focused on the motion of test particles. The interaction between particles as well as the perturbations they might produce to the external charge and current density are neglected. I investigate a distribution of the magnetic field that depends on only one spatial coordinate, x, with the Bx component of the magnetic field being equal to zero everywhere, like in tangential discontinuities. The magnetic vector, B, can rotate across the discontinuity by an angle ? ?" [00, 1800]. In addition to the B-field distribution I assumed different distributions of the electric field, E, with Ex = 0. I have considered three cases: (A) a uniform electric field; (B) a non-uniform electric field perpendicular everywhere to B and conserving the zero order drift, and (C) a non-uniform electric field, perpendicular everywhere to B and conserving the magnetic moment of the drifting particles. The particles are drifting into these steady state electromagnetic field distributions; their orbits together with the path of the first order guiding center are integrated numerically. The numerical results show that the ”antiparallel” distribution of the magnetic field (obtained when ? = 1800) with B = 0 at x = 0 does not produce anomalous acceleration of the test-particle as assumed in some steady state reconnection models. Although the zero and first order guiding center approximations diverge where B = 0, the exact equation of motion is not singular, it can be integrated throughout the integration time. The mathematical singularity of the approximative solutions does not correspond to a “true” (physical) singularity of the exact equation of motion. When the magnetic field is sheared with a non-zero By-component, and B can rotate with respect to E (case A), the particle orbit is confined into a sheath centered onto the x-position where B becomes parallel to E. Partial or total penetration of the test-particle is equally possible, as demonstrated for the E-field distributions of case B and case C. In case C the distance of penetration depends on the initial total energy of the test particles. Except for one of six different configurations considered, the reversal point of Bz does not correspond to a point of particle acceleration in the direction normal to B nor is the stopping point of the particle's motion in the direction normal to B. Indeed, it is the relative orientation between E and B, together with the vi total initial energy of the particle that determine the distance of penetration across the sheared magnetic field distribution. Penetration into the region of non-uniform magnetic field produces separation of charges. Particles with the highest energy are deflected the most. In the second part of the thesis I treat the dynamics of an ”ensemble” of electrons and protons forming a plasma stream. The plasma flow is spatially two-dimensional. In this case the plasma ”internal” contribution to the external fields is evaluated and self-consistently computed. The method adopted is the kinetic theory approximation of plasma physics instead of one-fluid magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) approximation or the Particle-In-Cell (PIC) generally used. Both the ensembles of electrons and protons are described by their velocity distribution function (VDF) that has to satisfy the Vlasov equation derived from the general Liouville theorem for a collisionless plasma. The VDFs are given in terms of the two constants of mechanical motion, the total energy, H, and one canonical momentum, px. The first adiabatic invariant, µ - the magnetic moment which is almost conserved when the Alfven conditions are satisfied, approximates a third constant of motion. I have found a velocity distribution function that describes a plasma moving in the Ox direction with a two-dimensional bulk velocity Vx(y, z) depending both on y and z. The moments of the VDFs of electrons and ions were computed analytically. The self-consistent electromagnetic potentials are found by solving the Maxwell equations and the plasma quasineutrality equation. The partial current densities, jx(y, z), determined by the first order moments of the VDFs were introduced into Ampere's equation in order to compute Ax(y, z), the component of the magnetic vector potential. The charge densities of the component species, q?n?, determined by the zero order moments of the VDFs have been introduced into the quasineutrality equation, ? q?n? = 0, from which the distribution of the electric potential, ?(y, z), is computed. The solutions for the electromagnetic potentials are found numerically. I have obtained a kinetic model that describes a two-dimensional plasma stream whose perpendicular bulk velocity varies (or is sheared) both in the direction normal to the magnetic field (perpendicular shear) and parallel to the magnetic field (parallel shear ). The parallel shear of velocity has never been modeled before using kinetic equations. On the other hand the two dimensional models proposed till now for the dynamics of magnetospheric plasma did not consider differential (or sheared) plasma motion across magnetic field lines. Several kinetic solutions are given for two-dimensional plasma flows and for different values of asymptotic densities, temperatures and bulk velocity. The key-feature of these numerical models is the existence of a parallel component of the electric field, Eparallel. It is shown that the parallel electric field vii is sustained by the parallel shear of the perpendicular plasma velocity. The amplitude of the parallel electric field depends on the value of the magnetic- field-aligned gradient of the perpendicular plasma velocity and also on the relative density and temperature of the moving stream with respect to the background, stagnant plasma. This is a new mechanism to generate parallel electric fields that adds to the ones already described in the literature and that are discussed in part 2 of this Thesis. In the kinetic models presented in the second part I have adopted a set of plasma densities and temperatures typical for the terrestrial magnetopause region. A parallel gradient of the density or electronic pressure enhances the intensity of the parallel electric field. The scale length of the boundary layer of transition from moving to stagnant regime can be of the order of the electron Larmor radius (“electron layer”) or the proton Larmor radius (“proton layer”). The scaling of the boundary layer is determined by the relative orientation of the magnetic field and the plasma bulk velocity. Eparallel is stronger in the case of Parallel Sheared Electron Layer than in the case of Parallel Sheared Proton Layer. The existence of a parallel component of the electric field invalidates the MHD approximation. In the case of the two-dimensional plasma flow studied in this Thesis the MHD convection velocity, UE = E ×B/B2 is not a satisfying approximation of the plasma bulk velocity, V . I illustrate the differences between UE (assigned in MHD approximations to a “frozen-in” motion of B-field lines) and V obtained by the kinetic models described in part 2. It is shown that the “de-freezing” is produced in those regions where a non-vanishing parallel electric field component was determined. The kinetic treatment of the plasma dynamics adopted in this Thesis evidence kinetic effects disregarded in the one-fluid approximations: finite Larmor radius effects that are illustrated in Part I and non-MHD parallel electric fields that are described in Part II. These effects play an important role in the processes taking place at the magnetopause, the interface region between the solar wind and the terrestrial magnetosphere.
Bibliographical Information:


School:Université catholique de Louvain

School Location:Belgium

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:théorie cinétique ecoulement scisaillé du plasma champs électriques parallèles physique de la magnétosphère


Date of Publication:07/05/2004

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