Alfvén Instability in a Compressible Flow

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A new ideal magnetohydrodynamic instability is presented. It is shown that linear incompressible Alfvénic disturbances can get over-reflected and exponentially amplified in compressible plasma flows. A simple and transparent stability criterion for a two-layer model is derived. The instability does not require a shear in the flow and may arise for rather moderate sub-Alfvénic flow speeds. It is therefore important to be aware of the Alfvén instability when dealing with laboratory or astrophysical plasma flows.
Original languageEnglish
Article number245001
Number of pages4
JournalPhysical Review Letters
Issue number24
Publication statusPublished - 08 Dec 2008


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