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Acoustic instability driven by cosmic-ray streaming
Begelman, Mitchell C.; Zweibel, Ellen G.
AA(University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, US), AB(University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, US)
The Astrophysical Journal, vol. 431, no. 2, pt. 1, p. 689-704 (ApJ Homepage)
Publication Date:
NASA/STI Keywords:
Acoustic Instability, Galactic Cosmic Rays, Magnetohydrodynamic Waves, Particle Acceleration, Sound Waves, Wave Propagation, Cosmology, Plasma Diffusion, Plasma Heating, Plasma Turbulence, Pressure Gradients, Propagation Velocity, Transport Theory
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We study the linear stability of compressional waves in a medium through which cosmic rays stream at the Alfven speed due to strong coupling with Alfven waves. Acoustic waves can be driven unstable by the cosmic-ray drift, provided that the streaming speed is sufficiently large compared to the thermal sound speed. Two effects can cause instability: (1) the heating of the thermal gas due to the damping of Alfven waves driven unstable by cosmic-ray streaming; and (2) phase shifts in the cosmic-ray pressure perturbation caused by the combination of cosmic-ray streaming and diffusion. The instability does not depend on the magnitude of the background cosmic-ray pressure gradient, and occurs whether or not cosmic-ray diffusion is important relative to streaming. When the cosmic-ray pressure is small compared to the gas pressure, or cosmic-ray diffusion is strong, the instability manifests itself as a weak overstability of slow magnetosonic waves. Larger cosmic-ray pressure gives rise to new hybrid modes, which can be strongly unstable in the limits of both weak and strong cosmic-ray diffusion and in the presence of thermal conduction. Parts of our analysis parallel earlier work by McKenzie & Webb (which were brought to our attention after this paper was accepted for publication), but our treatment of diffusive effects, thermal conduction, and nonlinearities represent significant extensions. Although the linear growth rate of instability is independent of the background cosmic-ray pressure gradient, the onset of nonlinear eff ects does depend on absolute value of DEL (vector differential operator) Pc. At the onset of nonlinearity the fractional amplitude of cosmic-ray pressure perturbations is delta PC/PC approximately (kL) -1 much less than 1, where k is the wavenumber and L is the pressure scale height of the unperturbed cosmic rays. We speculate that the instability may lead to a mode of cosmic-ray transport in which plateaus of uniform cosmic-ray pressure are separated by either laminar or turbulent jumps in which the thermal gas is subject to intense heating.

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