Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2017

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

Robert E. Ergun

Second Advisor

Laila Andersson

Third Advisor

Frances Bagenal

Fourth Advisor

Martin Goldman

Fifth Advisor

Webster Cash

Abstract

Magnetic turbulence is a universal phenomenon that occurs in space plasma physics, the small-scale processes of which is not well understood. This thesis presents on observational analysis of kinetic electric field signatures associated with magnetic turbulence, in an attempt to examine its underlying microphysics. Such kinetic signatures include small-scale magnetic holes, double layers, and phase-space holes. The first and second parts of this thesis present observations of small-scale magnetic holes, observed depressions in total magnetic field strength with spatial widths on the order of or less than the ion Larmor radius, in the near-Earth plasmasheet. Here I demonstrate electric field signatures associated small-scale magnetic holes are consistent with the presence of electron Hall currents, currents oriented perpendicularly to the magnetic field. Further investigation of these fields indicates that the Hall electron current is primarily responsible for the depletion of |B| associated with small-scale magnetic holes. I then present evidence that suggests these currents can descend to smaller spatial scales, indicating they participate in a turbulent cascade to smaller scales, a link that has not been observable suggested until now. The last part of this thesis investigates the presence of double layers and phase-space holes in a magnetically turbulent region of the terrestrial bow shock. In this part, I present evidence that these same signatures can be generated via field-aligned currents generated by strong magnetic fluctuations. I also show that double layers and phase-space holes, embedded within localized nonlinear ion acoustic waves, correlate with localized electron heating and possible ion deceleration, indicating they play a role in turbulent dissipation of kinetic to thermal energy. This thesis clearly demonstrates that energy dissipation in turbulent plasma is closely linked to the small-scale electric field environment.

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