Kinetic simulation of the electron-cyclotron maser instability: effect of a finite source size
1 Armagh Observatory, Armagh BT61 9DG, Northern Ireland, UK
2 Institute of Solar-Terrestrial Physics, 664033 Irkutsk, Russia
3 Irkutsk State Technical University, 664074 Irkutsk, Russia
Received: 22 December 2011
Accepted: 30 January 2012
Context. The electron-cyclotron maser instability is widespread in the Universe, producing, e.g., radio emission of the magnetized planets and cool substellar objects. Diagnosing the parameters of astrophysical radio sources requires comprehensive nonlinear simulations of the radiation process taking into account the source geometry.
Aims. We simulate the electron-cyclotron maser instability (i.e., the amplification of electromagnetic waves and the relaxation of an unstable electron distribution) in a very low-beta plasma. The model used takes into account the radiation escape from the source region and the particle flow through this region.
Methods. We developed a kinetic code to simulate the time evolution of an electron distribution in a radio emission source. The model includes the terms describing the particle injection to and escape from the emission source region. The spatial escape of the emission from the source is taken into account by using a finite amplification time. The unstable electron distribution of the horseshoe type is considered. A number of simulations were performed for different parameter sets typical of the magnetospheres of planets and ultracool dwarfs.
Results. The generated emission (corresponding to the fundamental extraordinary mode) has a frequency close to the electron cyclotron frequency and propagates across the magnetic field. Shortly after the onset of a simulation, the electron distribution reaches a quasi-stationary state. If the emission source region is relatively small, the resulting electron distribution is similar to that of the injected electrons and the emission intensity is low. In larger sources, the electron distribution may become nearly flat due to the wave-particle interaction, while the conversion efficiency of the particle energy flux into waves reaches 10–20%. We found good agreement of our model with the in situ observations in the source regions of auroral radio emissions of the Earth and Saturn. The expected characteristics of the electron distributions in the magnetospheres of ultracool dwarfs were obtained.
Key words: radiation mechanisms: non-thermal / planets and satellites: aurorae / brown dwarfs / stars: low-mass / radio continuum: stars / radio continuum: planetary systems
© ESO, 2012