Published online by Cambridge University Press: 03 July 2019
The Van Kampen normal-mode method is applied in a comprehensive study of the linear wave perturbations of a homogeneous, magnetized and finite-temperature plasma, described by the collisionless Vlasov–Maxwell system in its non-relativistic version. The analysis considers a stable, Maxwellian background, but is otherwise completely general in that it allows for arbitrary wave propagation direction relative to the equilibrium magnetic field, multiple plasma species and general polarization states of the perturbed electromagnetic fields. A convenient formulation is introduced whereby the generator of the time advance is a Hermitian operator, analogous to the Hamiltonian in the Schrödinger equation of quantum mechanics. This guarantees a real frequency spectrum and complete bases of normal modes. Expansions in these normal-mode bases yield immediately the solutions of initial-value problems for general initial conditions. With standard initial conditions and propagation direction parallel to the equilibrium magnetic field, all the familiar results obtained following Landau’s Laplace transform approach are recovered. Considering such parallel propagation, the present work shows also explicitly and provides an example of how to construct special initial conditions that result in different, damped but otherwise arbitrarily prescribed time variations of the macroscopic variables. The known dispersion relations for perpendicular propagation are also recovered.