Disputation: Ion dynamics and structure of collisionless shocks in space
- Location: Häggsalen, Ångströmlaboratoriet, Lägerhyddsvägen 1, Uppsala
- Doctoral student: Johlander, Andreas
- About the dissertation
- Organiser: Rymd- och plasmafysik
- Contact person: Johlander, Andreas
This thesis addresses the physics of collisionless shocks using spacecraft observations of the Earth's bow shock, particularly understanding the ion dynamics and shock structure for different shock conditions.
Shock waves form when supersonic flows encounter an obstacle. Like in regular gases, shock waves can form in a plasma - a gas of electrically charged particles. Shock waves in plasmas where collisions between particles are very rare are referred to as collisionless shock waves. Collisionless shocks are some of the most energetic plasma phenomena in the universe. They are found for example around exploded supernova remnants and in our solar system where the supersonic solar wind encounters obstacles like planets and the interstellar medium. Shock waves in plasmas are very efficient particle accelerators though a process known as diffusive shock acceleration. An example of particles accelerated in shock waves are the extremely energetic galactic cosmic rays that permeate the galaxy. This thesis addresses the physics of collisionless shocks using spacecraft observations of the Earth's bow shock, particularly understanding the ion dynamics and shock structure for different shock conditions. For this we have used data from ESA's four Cluster satellites and NASA's four Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) satellites. The first study presents Cluster measurements from the quasi-parallel bow shock, where the angle between the magnetic field and the shock normal is less than 45 degrees. We study the first steps of acceleration of solar wind ions at short large-amplitude magnetic structures (SLAMS). We observe nearly specularly reflected solar wind ions upstream of a SLAMS. By gyration in the solar wind, the reflected ions are accelerated to a few times the solar wind energy. The second and third study are about shock non-stationarity using MMS measurements from the quasi-perpendicular shock, where the angle between the magnetic field and the shock normal is greater than 45 degrees. In the second study we show that the shock is non-stationary in the form of ripples that propagate along the shock surface. In the third study we study closer in detail the dispersive properties of the ripples and find that whether a solar wind ion will be reflected at the shock is dependent on where it impinges on the rippled shock. In the fourth study we quantify the conditions for ion acceleration shocks by using MMS measurements from many encounters with the bow shock. We find that the quasi-parallel shock is efficient with up to 10% of the energy density in energetic ions. We also find that at quasi-parallel shocks, SLAMS can restrict high-energy ions from propagating upstream and convect them back to the shock, potentially increasing acceleration efficiency.