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Formation of collisionless shocks in magnetized plasma interaction with kinetic-scale obstacles

Cruz, F. and Alves, E. P. and Bamford, R. A. and Bingham, R. and Fonseca, R. A. and Silva, L. O. (2017) Formation of collisionless shocks in magnetized plasma interaction with kinetic-scale obstacles. Physics of Plasmas, 24 (2). ISSN 1070-664X

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Abstract

We investigate the formation of collisionless magnetized shocks triggered by the interaction between magnetized plasma flows and miniature-sized (order of plasma kinetic-scales) magnetic obstacles resorting to massively parallel, full particle-in-cell simulations, including the electron kinetics. The critical obstacle size to generate a compressed plasma region ahead of these objects is determined by independently varying the magnitude of the dipolar magnetic moment and the plasma magnetization. We find that the effective size of the obstacle depends on the relative orientation between the dipolar and plasma internal magnetic fields, and we show that this may be critical to form a shock in small-scale structures. We study the microphysics of the magnetopause in different magnetic field configurations in 2D and compare the results with full 3D simulations. Finally, we evaluate the parameter range where such miniature magnetized shocks can be explored in laboratory experiments.