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On the formation and properties of fluid shocks and collisionless shock waves in astrophysical plasmas
Bret, Antoine; Pe'er, Asaf
AA(ETSI Industriales, Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha, 13071 Ciudad Real, Spain), AB(Physics Department, University College Cork, Cork, Ireland)
Journal of Plasma Physics, Volume 84, Issue 3, article id. 905840311, 25 pp.
Publication Date:
astrophysical plasmas, plasma instabilities, space plasma physics
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(c) 2018: © Cambridge University Press 2018
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When two plasmas collide, their interaction can be mediated by collisionless plasma instabilities or binary collisions between particles of each shell. By comparing the maximum growth rate of the collisionless instabilities with the collision frequency between particles of the shells, we determine the critical density separating the collisionless formation from the collisional formation of the resulting shock waves. This critical density is also the density beyond which the shock downstream is field free, as plasma instabilities do not have time to develop electromagnetic patterns. We further determine the conditions on the shells initial density and velocity for the downstream to be collisional. If these quantities fulfil the determined conditions, the collisionality of the downstream also prevents the shock from accelerating particles or generating strong magnetic fields. We compare the speed of sound with the relative speed of collision between the two shells, thus determining the portion of the parameter space where strong shock formation is possible for both classical and degenerate plasmas. Finally, we discuss the observational consequences in several astrophysical settings.
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