Firehose and Mirror Instabilities in a Collisionless Shearing Plasma

Matthew W. Kunz, Alexander A. Schekochihin, James M. Stone
2014 Physical Review Letters  
Hybrid-kinetic numerical simulations of firehose and mirror instabilities in a collisionless plasma are performed in which pressure anisotropy is driven as the magnetic field is changed by a persistent linear shear S. For a decreasing field, it is found that mostly oblique firehose fluctuations grow at ion Larmor scales and saturate with energies ∼S^1/2; the pressure anisotropy is pinned at the stability threshold by particle scattering off microscale fluctuations. In contrast, nonlinear mirror
more » ... fluctuations are large compared to the ion Larmor scale and grow secularly in time; marginality is maintained by an increasing population of resonant particles trapped in magnetic mirrors. After one shear time, saturated order-unity magnetic mirrors are formed and particles scatter off their sharp edges. Both instabilities drive sub-ion-Larmor--scale fluctuations, which appear to be kinetic-Alfvén-wave turbulence. Our results impact theories of momentum and heat transport in astrophysical and space plasmas, in which the stretching of a magnetic field by shear is a generic process.
doi:10.1103/physrevlett.112.205003 fatcat:fn7c26536bfmzmeshowxv45kma