The plasma physics of shock acceleration

Research paper by Frank C. Jones, Donald C. Ellison

Indexed on: 01 Dec '91Published on: 01 Dec '91Published in: Space science reviews


The notion that plasma shocks in astrophysical settings can and do accelerate charged particles to high energies is not a new one. However, in recent years considerable progress has been achieved in understanding the role particle acceleration plays both in astrophysics and in the shock process itself. In this paper we briefly review the history and theory of shock acceleration, paying particular attention to theories of parallel shocks which include the backreaction of accelerated particles on the shock structure. We discuss in detail the work that computer simulations, both plasma and Monte Carlo, are playing in revealing how thermal ions interact with shocks and how particle acceleration appears to be an inevitable and necessary part of the basic plasma physics that governs collisionless shocks. We briefly describe some of the outstanding problems that still confront theorists and observers in this field.