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Cosmic-ray propagation in the bi-stable interstellar medium. I. Conditions for cosmic-ray trapping

Abstract : Context. Cosmic rays propagate through the galactic scales down to the smaller scales at which stars form. Cosmic rays are close to energy equipartition with the other components of the interstellar medium and can provide a support against gravity if pressure gradients develop.Aims. We study the propagation of cosmic rays within the turbulent and magnetised bi-stable interstellar gas. The conditions necessary for cosmic-ray trapping and cosmic-ray pressure gradient development are investigated.Methods. We derived an analytical value of the critical diffusion coefficient for cosmic-ray trapping within a turbulent medium, which follows the observed scaling relations. We then presented a numerical study using 3D simulations of the evolution of a mixture of interstellar gas and cosmic rays, in which turbulence is driven at varying scales by stochastic forcing within a box of 40 pc. We explored a large parameter space in which the cosmic-ray diffusion coefficient, the magnetisation, the driving scale, and the amplitude of the turbulence forcing, as well as the initial cosmic-ray energy density, vary.Results. We identify a clear transition in the interstellar dynamics for cosmic-ray diffusion coefficients below a critical value deduced from observed scaling relations. This critical diffusion depends on the characteristic length scale L of Dcrit ≃ 3.1 × 1023 cm2 s−1(L/1 pc)q+1, where the exponent q relates the turbulent velocity dispersion σ to the length scale as σ ~ Lq. Hence, in our simulations this transition occurs around Dcrit ≃ 1024–1025 cm2 s−1. The transition is recovered in all cases of our parameter study and is in very good agreement with our simple analytical estimate. In the trapped cosmic-ray regime, the induced cosmic-ray pressure gradients can modify the gas flow and provide a support against the thermal instability development. We discuss possible mechanisms that can significantly reduce the cosmic-ray diffusion coefficients within the interstellar medium.Conclusions. Cosmic-ray pressure gradients can develop and modify the evolution of thermally bi-stable gas for diffusion coefficients D0 ≤ 1025 cm2 s−1 or in regions where the cosmic-ray pressure exceeds the thermal one by more than a factor of ten. This study provides the basis for further works including more realistic cosmic-ray diffusion coefficients, as well as local cosmic-ray sources.Key words: magnetohydrodynamics (MHD) / methods: numerical / ISM: structure / diffusion / cosmic rays / ISM: individual objects: molecular clouds
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Submitted on : Wednesday, November 18, 2020 - 1:32:38 PM
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Benoît Commerçon, Alexandre Marcowith, Yohan Dubois. Cosmic-ray propagation in the bi-stable interstellar medium. I. Conditions for cosmic-ray trapping. Astron.Astrophys., 2019, 622, pp.A143. ⟨10.1051/0004-6361/201833809⟩. ⟨hal-01953084⟩

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