Abstract:
Collisionless shocks in plasmas play an important role in space physics (Earth's bow shock) and astrophysics (supernova remnants, relativistic jets, gamma-ray bursts, high energy cosmic rays). While the formation of a fluid shock through the steepening of a large amplitude sound wave has been understood for long, there is currently no detailed picture of the mechanism responsible for the formation of a collisionless shock. We unravel the physical mechanism at work and show that an electromagnetic Weibel shock always forms when two relativistic collisionless, initially unmagnetized, plasma shells encounter. The predicted shock formation time is in good agreement with 2D and 3D particle-in-cell simulations of counterstreaming pair plasmas. By predicting the shock formation time, experimental setups aiming at producing such shocks can be optimised to favourable conditions.

Abstract:
A study of collisionless external shocks in gamma-ray bursts is presented. The shock structure, electromagnetic fields, and process of electron acceleration are assessed by performing a self-consistent 3D particle-in-cell (PIC) simulation. In accordance with hydrodynamic shock systems, the shock consists of a reverse shock (RS) and forward shock (FS) separated by a contact discontinuity (CD). The development and structure are controlled by the ion Weibel instability. The ion filaments are sources of strong transverse electromagnetic fields at both sides of the double shock structure over a length of 30 - 100 ion skin depths. Electrons are heated up to a maximum energy $\epsilon_{\rm ele}\approx \sqrt{\epsilon_{\rm b}}$, where $\epsilon$ is the energy normalized to the total incoming energy. Jet electrons are trapped in the RS transition region due to the presence of an ambipolar electric field and reflection by the strong transverse magnetic fields in the shocked region. In a process similar to shock surfing acceleration (SSA) for ions, electrons experience drift motion and acceleration by ion filament transverse electric fields in the plane perpendicular to the shock propagation direction. Ultimately accelerated jet electrons are convected back into the upstream.

Abstract:
We present a particle-in-cell simulation of the generation of a collisionless turbulent shock in a dense plasma driven by an ultra-high-intensity laser pulse. From the linear analysis, we highlight the crucial role of the laser-heated and return-current electrons in triggering a strong Weibel-like instability, giving rise to a magnetic turbulence able to isotropize the target ions.

Abstract:
Collisionless shocks occur in various fields of physics. In the context of space and astrophysics they have been investigated for many decades. However, a thorough understanding of shock formation and particle acceleration is still missing. Collisionless shocks can be distinguished into electromagnetic and electrostatic shocks. Electromagnetic shocks are of importance mainly in astrophysical environments and they are mediated by the Weibel or filamentation instability. In such shocks, charged particles gain energy by diffusive shock acceleration. Electrostatic shocks are characterized by a strong electrostatic field, which leads to electron trapping. Ions are accelerated by reflection from the electrostatic potential. Shock formation and particle acceleration will be discussed in theory and simulations.

Abstract:
Collisionless shocks are pervasive in astrophysics and they are critical to understand cosmic ray acceleration. Laboratory experiments with intense lasers are now opening the way to explore and characterise the underlying microphysics, which determine the acceleration process of collisionless shocks. We determine the shock character - electrostatic or electromagnetic - based on the stability of electrostatic shocks to transverse electromagnetic fluctuations as a function of the electron temperature and flow velocity of the plasma components, and we compare the analytical model with particle-in-cell simulations. By making the connection with the laser parameters driving the plasma flows, we demonstrate that shocks with different and distinct underlying microphysics can be explored in the laboratory with state-of-the-art laser systems.

Abstract:
We review recent progress on collisionless relativistic shocks. Kinetic instability theory is briefed including its predictions and limitations. The main focus is on numerical experiments in (i) pair and (ii) electron-nucleon plasmas. The main results are: (i) confirmation of shock evolution in non-magnetised relativistic plasma in 3D due to either the lepton-Weibel instability or the ion-Weibel instability; (ii) sensitive dependence on upstream magnetisation ; (iii) the sensitive dependence of particle dynamics on the upstream magnetic inclination angle $\thetabn$, where particles of $\thetabn>34^\circ$ cannot escape upstream, leading to the distinction between `sub-luminal' and `super-luminal' shocks; (iv) particles in ultra-relativistic shocks can hardly overturn the shock and escape to upstream; they may oscillate around the shock ramp for a long time, so to speak `surfing it' and thereby becoming accelerated by a kind of SDA; (v) these particles form a power law tail on the downstream distribution; their limitations are pointed out; (vi) recently developed methods permit the calculation of the radiation spectra emitted by the downstream high-energy particles; (vii) the Weibel-generated downstream magnetic fields form large amplitude vortices which could be advected by the downstream flow to large distances from the shock and possibly contribute to an extended strong field region; (viii) if cosmic rays are included, Bell-like modes can generate upstream magnetic turbulence at short and, by diffusive re-coupling, also long wavelengths in nearly parallel magnetic field shocks; (ix) advection of such large-amplitude waves should cause periodic reformation of the quasi-parallel shock and eject large amplitude magnetic field vortices downstream where they contribute to turbulence and to maintaining an extended region of large magnetic fields.

Abstract:
The physics of collisionless relativistic shocks with a moderate magnetization is presented. Micro-physics is relevant to explain the most energetic radiative phenomena of Nature, namely that of the termination shock of Gamma Ray Bursts. A transition towards Fermi process occurs for decreasing magnetization around a critical value which turns out to be the condition for the scattering to break the mean field inhibition. Scattering is produced by magnetic micro-turbulence driven by the current carried by returning particles, which had not been considered till now, but turns out to be more intense than Weibel's one around the transition. The current is also responsible for a buffer effect on the motion of the incoming flow, on which the threshold for the onset of turbulence depends.

Abstract:
Relativistic shocks are usually thought to occur in violent astrophysical explosions. These collisionless shocks are mediated by a plasma kinetic streaming instability, often loosely referred to as the Weibel instability, which generates strong magnetic fields "from scratch" very efficiently. In this review paper we discuss the shock micro-physics and present a recent model of "pre-conditioning" of an initially unmagnetized upstream region via the cosmic-ray-driven Weibel-type instability.

Abstract:
The Weibel/filamentation instability is known to play a key role in the physics of weakly magnetized collisionless shock waves. From the point of view of high energy astrophysics, this instability also plays a crucial role because its development in the shock precursor populates the downstream with a small-scale magneto-static turbulence which shapes the acceleration and radiative processes of suprathermal particles. The present work discusses the physics of the dissipation of this Weibel-generated turbulence downstream of relativistic collisionless shock waves. It calculates explicitly the first-order non-linear terms associated to the diffusive nature of the particle trajectories. These corrections are found to systematically increase the damping rate, assuming that the scattering length remains larger than the coherence length of the magnetic fluctuations. The relevance of such corrections is discussed in a broader astrophysical perspective, in particular regarding the physics of the external relativistic shock wave of a gamma-ray burst.

Abstract:
We extract synthetic photon spectra from first-principles particle-in-cell simulations of relativistic shocks propagating in unmagnetized pair plasmas. The two basic ingredients for the radiation, namely accelerated particles and magnetic fields, are produced self-consistently as part of the shock evolution. We use the method of Hededal & Nordlund (2005) and compute the photon spectrum via Fourier transform of the electric far-field from a large number of particles, sampled directly from the simulation. We find that the spectrum from relativistic collisionless shocks is entirely consistent with synchrotron radiation in the magnetic fields generated by Weibel instability. We can recover the so-called "jitter'' regime only if we artificially reduce the strength of the electromagnetic fields, such that the wiggler parameter K = qB lambda/mc^2 becomes much smaller than unity ("B" and "lambda" are the strength and scale of the magnetic turbulence, respectively). These findings may place constraints on the origin of non-thermal emission in astrophysics, especially for the interpretation of the hard (harder than synchrotron) low-frequency spectrum of Gamma-Ray Bursts.