- A Critical Shock Mach Number for Particle Acceleration in the Absence of Pre-existing Cosmic Rays: M = √5
- Astrophysical Journal
- Volume | Issue number
- 780 | 2
- Pages (from-to)
- Number of pages
- Document type
- Faculty of Science (FNWI)
- Anton Pannekoek Institute for Astronomy (API)
It is shown that, under some generic assumptions, shocks cannot accelerate particles unless the overall shock Mach number exceeds a critical value M > √5. The reason is that for M ≤ √5 the work done to compress the flow in a particle precursor requires more enthalpy flux than the system can sustain. This lower limit applies to situations without significant magnetic field pressure. In case that the magnetic field pressure dominates the pressure in the unshocked medium, i.e., for low plasma beta, the resistivity of the magnetic field makes it even more difficult to fulfill the energetic requirements for the formation of shock with an accelerated particle precursor and associated compression of the upstream plasma. We illustrate the effects of magnetic fields for the extreme situation of a purely perpendicular magnetic field configuration with plasma beta β = 0, which gives a minimum Mach number of M = 5/2. The situation becomes more complex, if we incorporate the effects of pre-existing cosmic rays, indicating that the additional degree of freedom allows for less strict Mach number limits on acceleration. We discuss the implications of this result for low Mach number shock acceleration as found in solar system shocks, and shocks in clusters of galaxies.
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