Articles | Volume 23, issue 3
30 Mar 2005
 | 30 Mar 2005

Phase space structures generated by absorbing obstacles in streaming plasmas

P. Guio and H. L. Pécseli

Abstract. The dynamic behavior of a collisionless plasma flowing around an obstacle is investigated by numerical methods. In the present studies, the obstacle is formed by an absorbing cylinder, and a 2-D electrostatic particle-in-cell simulation is used to study the flow characteristics, with extensions to a fully 3-D generalization of the problem demonstrated as well. The formation of irregular filamented density depletions, oblique to the flow, is observed. The structures form behind the obstacle, in a region with a strong velocity shear, but also other instability mechanisms can be identified. The dynamics of these structures is highly dependent on the physical parameters of the plasma, and they can either be quasi-stationary or undergo a dynamic evolution. The structures are found to be associated with phase-space vortices, observed especially in the phase space spanned by the velocity direction perpendicular to the flow and the spatial coordinate in the same direction. The bias of the obstacle with respect to the plasma potential is found to be an important parameter for the dynamics of the structures, but seemingly not for their formation as such. The results can be of interest in the interpretation of structures in space plasmas as observed by instrumented spacecrafts.