Articles | Volume 29, issue 7
ANGEO Communicates
19 Jul 2011
ANGEO Communicates |  | 19 Jul 2011

Relativistic transformation of phase-space distributions

R. A. Treumann, R. Nakamura, and W. Baumjohann

Abstract. We investigate the transformation of the distribution function in the relativistic case, a problem of interest in plasma when particles with high (relativistic) velocities come into play as for instance in radiation belt physics, in the electron-cyclotron maser radiation theory, in the vicinity of high-Mach number shocks where particles are accelerated to high speeds, and generally in solar and astrophysical plasmas. We show that the phase-space volume element is a Lorentz constant and construct the general particle distribution function from first principles. Application to thermal equilibrium lets us derive a modified version of the isotropic relativistic thermal distribution, the modified Jüttner distribution corrected for the Lorentz-invariant phase-space volume element. Finally, we discuss the relativistic modification of a number of plasma parameters.