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Durham University

Department of Mathematical Sciences

Academic Staff

Publication details for Konstantinos Gourgouliatos

Gourgouliatos, Konstantinos N. & Hollerbach, Rainer (2016). Resistive tearing instability in electron MHD: application to neutron star crusts. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 463(3): 3381-3389.

Author(s) from Durham


We study a resistive tearing instability developing in a system evolving through the combined effect of Hall drift in the electron magnetohydrodynamic limit and Ohmic dissipation. We explore first the exponential growth of the instability in the linear case and we find the fastest growing mode, the corresponding eigenvalues and dispersion relation. The instability growth rate scales as γ ∝ B2/3σ−1/3, where B is the magnetic field and σ the electrical conductivity. We confirm the development of the tearing resistive instability in the fully non-linear case, in a plane-parallel configuration where the magnetic field polarity reverses, through simulations of systems initiating in Hall equilibrium with some superimposed perturbation. Following a transient phase, during which there is some minor rearrangement of the magnetic field, the perturbation grows exponentially. Once the instability is fully developed, the magnetic field forms the characteristic islands and X-type reconnection points, where Ohmic decay is enhanced. We discuss the implications of this instability for the local magnetic field evolution in neutron stars’ crusts, proposing that it can contribute to heating near the surface of the star, as suggested by models of magnetar post-burst cooling. In particular, we find that a current sheet a few metres thick, covering as little as 1 per cent of the total surface, can provide 1042 erg in thermal energy within a few days. We briefly discuss applications of this instability in other systems where the Hall effect operates such as protoplanetary discs and space plasmas.