Phase Diagram for Magnetic Reconnection in Heliophysical, Astrophysical and Laboratory Plasmas

Physics of Plasmas (Impact Factor: 2.25). 09/2011; 18(11). DOI: 10.1063/1.3647505
Source: arXiv

ABSTRACT Recent progress in understanding the physics of magnetic reconnection is
conveniently summarized in terms of a phase diagram which organizes the
essential dynamics for a wide variety of applications in heliophysics,
laboratory and astrophysics. The two key dimensionless parameters are the
Lundquist number and the macrosopic system size in units of the ion sound
gyroradius. In addition to the conventional single X-line collisional and
collisionless phases, multiple X-line reconnection phases arise due to the
presence of the plasmoid instability either in collisional and collisionless
current sheets. In particular, there exists a unique phase termed "multiple
X-line hybrid phase" where a hierarchy of collisional islands or plasmoids is
terminated by a collisionless current sheet, resulting in a rapid coupling
between the macroscopic and kinetic scales and a mixture of collisional and
collisionless dynamics. The new phases involving multiple X-lines and
collisionless physics may be important for the emerging applications of
magnetic reconnection to accelerate charged particles beyond their thermal
speeds. A large number of heliophysical and astrophysical plasmas are surveyed
and grouped in the phase diagram: Earth's magnetosphere, solar plasmas
(chromosphere, corona, wind and tachocline), galactic plasmas (molecular
clouds, interstellar media, accretion disks and their coronae, Crab nebula, Sgr
A*, gamma ray bursts, magnetars), extragalactic plasmas (Active Galactic Nuclei
disks and their coronae, galaxy clusters, radio lobes, and extragalactic jets).
Significance of laboratory experiments, including a next generation
reconnection experiment, is also discussed.

  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Magnetic reconnection is a phenomenon of nature in whichmagnetic field lines change their topology and convert magnetic energy to plasma particles by acceleration and heating. The process can stretch out over time or occur quite suddenly. It is one of the most fundamental processes at work in laboratory and astrophysical plasmas. Magnetic reconnection occurs everywhere: In solar flares; coronal mass ejections; the earth's magnetosphere; in the star forming galaxies; and in plasma fusion devices. This paper reviews the most recent progress in the research of magnetic reconnection.
    Progress of Theoretical Physics Supplement 01/2012; DOI:10.1143/PTPS.195.167
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Recently, novel experiments on magnetic reconnection have been conducted in laser-produced plasmas in a high-energy-density regime. Individual plasma bubbles self-generate toroidal, mega-gauss-scale magnetic fields through the Biermann battery effect. When multiple bubbles are created at small separation, they expand into one another, driving reconnection of this field. Reconnection in the experiments was reported to be much faster than allowed by both Sweet-Parker, and even Hall-MHD theories, when normalized to the nominal magnetic fields self-generated by single bubbles. Through particle-in-cell simulations (both with and without a binary collision operator), we model the bubble interaction at parameters and geometry relevant to the experiments. This paper discusses in detail the reconnection regime of the laser-driven experiments and reports the qualitative features of simulations. We find substantial flux-pileup effects, which boost the relevant magnetic field for reconnection in the current sheet. When this is accounted for, the normalized reconnection rates are much more in line with standard two-fluid theory of reconnection. At the largest system sizes, we additionally find that the current sheet is prone to breakup into plasmoids.
    Physics of Plasmas 05/2012; 19(5). DOI:10.1063/1.3694119
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Models of magnetic reconnection in space plasmas generally consider only a segment of the magnetic field lines. The consideration of only a segment of the lines is shown to lead to paradoxical results in which reconnection can be impossible even in a magnetic field constrained to be curl free or can be at an Alfvén rate even when the plasma is a perfect conductor. A model of reconnecting magnetic fields is developed which shows the smallness of the interdiffusion distance δd of magnetic field lines does not limit the speed of reconnection but does provide a reconnection trigger. When the reconnection region has a natural length Lr, the spatial scale of the gradient of magnetic field across the magnetic field lines must reach Lg ≈ 0.3Lr/ln(Lr/δd) for fast reconnection to be triggered, which implies a current density j ≈ B/μ0Lg that is far lower than that usually thought required for fast reconnection. The relation between magnetic reconnection in space and in toroidal laboratory plasmas is also discussed.
    Physics of Plasmas 09/2012; 19(9). DOI:10.1063/1.4754715


Available from