Friday, October 19, 2012

Fermi Acceleration - Definition

Fermi Acceleration

In order to explain the origins of cosmic rays, Enrico Fermi (1949) introduced a mechanism of particle acceleration, whereby charged particles bounce off moving interstellar magnetic fields and either gain or lose energy, depending on whether the "magnetic mirror" is approaching or receding. In a typical environment, he argued, the probability of a head-on collision is greater than a head-tail collision, so particles would be accelerated on average. This random process is now called 2nd order Fermi acceleration, because the mean energy gain per "bounce" is dependent on the "mirror" velocity squared.

Bell (1978) and Blandford and Ostriker (1978) independently showed that Fermi acceleration by supernova remnant (SNR) shocks is particularly efficient, because the motions are not random. A charged particle ahead of the shock front can pass through the shock and then be scattered by magnetic inhomogeneities behind the shock. The particle gains energy from this "bounce" and flies back across the shock, where it can be scattered by magnetic inhomogeneities ahead of the shock. This enables the particle to bounce back and forth again and again, gaining energy each time. This process is now called 1st order Fermi acceleration, because the mean energy gain is dependent on the shock velocity only to the first power.

Source:  NASA,

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