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Nonthermal electron acceleration at collisionless quasi-perpendicular shocks

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Shock waves propagating in collisionless heliospheric and astrophysical plasmas have been studied extensively over the decades. One prime motivation is to understand the nonthermal particle acceleration at shocks. Although the theory of diffusive shock acceleration (DSA) has long been the standard for cosmic-ray acceleration at shocks, plasma physical understanding of particle acceleration remains elusive. In this review, we discuss nonthermal electron acceleration mechanisms at quasi-perpendicular shocks, for which substantial progress has been made in recent years. The discussion presented in this review is restricted to the following three specific topics: The first is stochastic shock drift acceleration (SSDA), which is a relatively new mechanism for electron injection into DSA. The basic mechanism, related in-situ observations and kinetic simulations results, and how it is connected with DSA will be discussed. Second, we discuss shock surfing acceleration (SSA) at very high Mach number shocks relevant to young supernova remnants (SNRs). While the original proposal under the one-dimensional assumption is unrealistic, SSA has now been proven efficient by a fully three-dimensional kinetic simulation. We discuss the multidimensional nature of SSA and its role in electron injection. Finally, we discuss the current understanding of the magnetized Weibel-dominated shock. It is essentially a magnetized shock in which the reflected-gyrating ions dominate the formation of the shock structure but with a substantial magnetic field amplification by the ion-Weibel instability. Spontaneous magnetic reconnection of self-generated current sheets within the shock structure is an interesting consequence of Weibel-generated strong magnetic turbulence. Although the exact condition for active magnetic reconnection has not been clarified, we argue that high Mach number shocks with both Alfvén and sound Mach numbers exceeding 20–40 will likely behave as a Weibel-dominated shock. Despite a number of interesting recent findings, the relative roles of SSDA, SSA, and magnetic reconnection for electron acceleration at collisionless shocks and how the dominant particle acceleration mechanisms change depending on shock parameters remain to be answered.

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The work of T. A. was supported by JSPS KAKENHI Grant Nos. 17H02966 and 17H06140. The work of J. N. has been supported by Narodowe Centrum Nauki through research project No. 2019/33/B/ST9/02569. The authors acknowledge the support by the International Teams program of International Space Science Institute (ISSI).

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Correspondence to Takanobu Amano.

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Amano, T., Matsumoto, Y., Bohdan, A. et al. Nonthermal electron acceleration at collisionless quasi-perpendicular shocks. Rev. Mod. Plasma Phys. 6, 29 (2022).

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