Approximate symmetries of guiding-centre motion*
In a strong, inhomogeneous magnetic field, charged particle dynamics may be studied in the guiding-centre approximation, which is known to be Hamiltonian. When the magnetic field is quasisymmetric, the first-order guiding-centre (FGC) Hamiltonian structure admits a continuous symmetry, and therefore a conserved quantity in addition to the energy. Since the FGC system is only an approximation, it is also interesting to consider approximate symmetries of the guiding-centre Hamiltonian structure. We find that any approximate spatial symmetry coincides with quasisymmetry to leading order. For approximate phase-space symmetries, we derive weaker conditions than quasisymmetry. The latter include ‘weak quasisymmetry’ as a subcase, recently proposed by Rodríguez et al. Our results, however, show that weak quasisymmetry is necessarily non-spatial at first order. Finally, we demonstrate that if the magnetic field is constrained to satisfy magnetohydrostatic force balance then an approximate symmetry must agree with quasisymmetry to leading order.