Direct evidence for kinetic effects associated with solar wind reconnection.
ABSTRACT: Kinetic effects resulting from the two-fluid physics play a crucial role in the fast collisionless reconnection, which is a process to explosively release massive energy stored in magnetic fields in space and astrophysical plasmas. In-situ observations in the Earth's magnetosphere provide solid consistence with theoretical models on the point that kinetic effects are required in the collisionless reconnection. However, all the observations associated with solar wind reconnection have been analyzed in the context of magnetohydrodynamics (MHD) although a lot of solar wind reconnection exhausts have been reported. Because of the absence of kinetic effects and substantial heating, whether the reconnections are still ongoing when they are detected in the solar wind remains unknown. Here, by dual-spacecraft observations, we report a solar wind reconnection with clear Hall magnetic fields. Its corresponding Alfvenic electron outflow jet, derived from the decouple between ions and electrons, is identified, showing direct evidence for kinetic effects that dominate the collisionless reconnection. The turbulence associated with the exhaust is a kind of background solar wind turbulence, implying that the reconnection generated turbulence has not much developed.
Project description:Magnetic reconnection is believed to be the main driver to transport solar wind into the Earth's magnetosphere when the magnetopause features a large magnetic shear. However, even when the magnetic shear is too small for spontaneous reconnection, the Kelvin-Helmholtz instability driven by a super-Alfvénic velocity shear is expected to facilitate the transport. Although previous kinetic simulations have demonstrated that the non-linear vortex flows from the Kelvin-Helmholtz instability gives rise to vortex-induced reconnection and resulting plasma transport, the system sizes of these simulations were too small to allow the reconnection to evolve much beyond the electron scale as recently observed by the Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) spacecraft. Here, based on a large-scale kinetic simulation and its comparison with MMS observations, we show for the first time that ion-scale jets from vortex-induced reconnection rapidly decay through self-generated turbulence, leading to a mass transfer rate nearly one order higher than previous expectations for the Kelvin-Helmholtz instability.
Project description:Magnetic reconnection is a fundamental plasma process, by which magnetic energy is explosively released in the current sheet to energize charged particles and to create bi-directional Alfvénic plasma jets. Numerical simulations predicted that evolution of the reconnecting current sheet is dominated by formation and interaction of magnetic flux ropes, which finally leads to turbulence. Accordingly, most volume of the reconnecting current sheet is occupied by the ropes, and energy dissipation occurs via multiple relevant mechanisms, e.g., the parallel electric field, the rope coalescence and the rope contraction. As an essential element of the reconnecting current sheet, however, how these ropes evolve has been elusive. Here, we present direct evidence of secondary reconnection in the filamentary currents within the ropes. The observations indicate that secondary reconnection can make a significant contribution to energy conversion in the kinetic scale during turbulent reconnection.
Project description:Magnetic reconnections play essential roles in space, astrophysical, and laboratory plasmas, where the anti-parallel magnetic field components re-connect and the magnetic energy is converted to the plasma energy as Alfvénic out flows. Although the electron dynamics is considered to be essential, it is highly challenging to observe electron scale reconnections. Here we show the experimental results on an electron scale reconnection driven by the electron dynamics in laser-produced plasmas. We apply a weak-external magnetic field in the direction perpendicular to the plasma propagation, where the magnetic field is directly coupled with only the electrons but not for the ions. Since the kinetic pressure of plasma is much larger than the magnetic pressure, the magnetic field is distorted and locally anti-parallel. We observe plasma collimations, cusp and plasmoid like features with optical diagnostics. The plasmoid propagates at the electron Alfvén velocity, indicating a reconnection driven by the electron dynamics.
Project description:Magnetic reconnection plays a key role in the conversion of magnetic energy into the thermal and kinetic energy of plasma. On either side of the diffusion region in space plasma, the conditions for the occurrence of reconnections are usually not symmetric. Previous theoretical studies have predicted that reconnections under asymmetric conditions will bear different features compared with those of symmetric reconnections, and numerical simulations have verified these distinct features. However, to date, the features of asymmetric reconnections have not been thoroughly investigated using in situ observations; thus, some results from theoretical studies and simulations have not been tested with observations sufficiently well. Here, spacecraft observations are used in a statistical investigation of asymmetric magnetic reconnection exhaust at the dayside magnetopause. The resulting observational features are consistent with the theoretical predictions. The results presented here advance our understanding of the development of reconnections under asymmetric conditions.
Project description:Coronal holes are the darkest and least active regions of the Sun, as observed both on the solar disk and above the solar limb. Coronal holes are associated with rapidly expanding open magnetic fields and the acceleration of the high-speed solar wind. This paper reviews measurements of the plasma properties in coronal holes and how these measurements are used to reveal details about the physical processes that heat the solar corona and accelerate the solar wind. It is still unknown to what extent the solar wind is fed by flux tubes that remain open (and are energized by footpoint-driven wave-like fluctuations), and to what extent much of the mass and energy is input intermittently from closed loops into the open-field regions. Evidence for both paradigms is summarized in this paper. Special emphasis is also given to spectroscopic and coronagraphic measurements that allow the highly dynamic non-equilibrium evolution of the plasma to be followed as the asymptotic conditions in interplanetary space are established in the extended corona. For example, the importance of kinetic plasma physics and turbulence in coronal holes has been affirmed by surprising measurements from the UVCS instrument on SOHO that heavy ions are heated to hundreds of times the temperatures of protons and electrons. These observations point to specific kinds of collisionless Alfvén wave damping (i.e., ion cyclotron resonance), but complete theoretical models do not yet exist. Despite our incomplete knowledge of the complex multi-scale plasma physics, however, much progress has been made toward the goal of understanding the mechanisms ultimately responsible for producing the observed properties of coronal holes.
Project description:Turbulence is ubiquitous in the solar wind. Turbulence causes kinetic and magnetic energy to cascade to small scales where they are eventually dissipated, adding heat to the plasma. The details of how this occurs are not well understood. This article reviews the evidence for turbulent dissipation and examines various diagnostics for identifying solar wind regions where dissipation is occurring. We also discuss how future missions will further enhance our understanding of the importance of turbulence to solar wind dynamics.
Project description:Modes and manifestations of the explosive activity in the Earth's magnetotail, as well as its onset mechanisms and key pre-onset conditions are reviewed. Two mechanisms for the generation of the pre-onset current sheet are discussed, namely magnetic flux addition to the tail lobes, or other high-latitude perturbations, and magnetic flux evacuation from the near-Earth tail associated with dayside reconnection. Reconnection onset may require stretching and thinning of the sheet down to electron scales. It may also start in thicker sheets in regions with a tailward gradient of the equatorial magnetic field Bz ; in this case it begins as an ideal-MHD instability followed by the generation of bursty bulk flows and dipolarization fronts. Indeed, remote sensing and global MHD modeling show the formation of tail regions with increased Bz , prone to magnetic reconnection, ballooning/interchange and flapping instabilities. While interchange instability may also develop in such thicker sheets, it may grow more slowly compared to tearing and cause secondary reconnection locally in the dawn-dusk direction. Post-onset transients include bursty flows and dipolarization fronts, micro-instabilities of lower-hybrid-drift and whistler waves, as well as damped global flux tube oscillations in the near-Earth region. They convert the stretched tail magnetic field energy into bulk plasma acceleration and collisionless heating, excitation of a broad spectrum of plasma waves, and collisional dissipation in the ionosphere. Collisionless heating involves ion reflection from fronts, Fermi, betatron as well as other, non-adiabatic, mechanisms. Ionospheric manifestations of some of these magnetotail phenomena are discussed. Explosive plasma phenomena observed in the laboratory, the solar corona and solar wind are also discussed.
Project description:Reconnection is a fundamental event in many areas of science, from the interaction of vortices in classical and quantum fluids, and magnetic flux tubes in magnetohydrodynamics and plasma physics, to the recombination in polymer physics and DNA biology. By using fundamental results in topological fluid mechanics, the helicity of a flux tube can be calculated in terms of writhe and twist contributions. Here we show that the writhe is conserved under anti-parallel reconnection. Hence, for a pair of interacting flux tubes of equal flux, if the twist of the reconnected tube is the sum of the original twists of the interacting tubes, then helicity is conserved during reconnection. Thus, any deviation from helicity conservation is entirely due to the intrinsic twist inserted or deleted locally at the reconnection site. This result has important implications for helicity and energy considerations in various physical contexts.
Project description:Magnetic reconnection is a fundamental process of topology change and energy release, taking place in plasmas on the Sun, in space, in astrophysical objects and in the laboratory. However, observational evidence has been relatively rare and typically only partial. Here we present evidence of fast reconnection in a solar filament eruption using high-resolution H-alpha images from the New Vacuum Solar Telescope, supplemented by extreme ultraviolet observations. The reconnection is seen to occur between a set of ambient chromospheric fibrils and the filament itself. This allows for the relaxation of magnetic tension in the filament by an untwisting motion, demonstrating a flux rope structure. The topology change and untwisting are also found through nonlinear force-free field modelling of the active region in combination with magnetohydrodynamic simulation. These results demonstrate a new role for reconnection in solar eruptions: the release of magnetic twist.
Project description:Type III solar radio bursts are the Sun's most intense and frequent nonthermal radio emissions. They involve two critical problems in astrophysics, plasma physics, and space physics: how collective processes produce nonthermal radiation and how magnetic reconnection occurs and changes magnetic energy into kinetic energy. Here magnetic reconnection events are identified definitively in Solar Dynamics Observatory UV-EUV data, with strong upward and downward pairs of jets, current sheets, and cusp-like geometries on top of time-varying magnetic loops, and strong outflows along pairs of open magnetic field lines. Type III bursts imaged by the Murchison Widefield Array and detected by the Learmonth radiospectrograph and STEREO B spacecraft are demonstrated to be in very good temporal and spatial coincidence with specific reconnection events and with bursts of X-rays detected by the RHESSI spacecraft. The reconnection sites are low, near heights of 5-10 Mm. These images and event timings provide the long-desired direct evidence that semi-relativistic electrons energized in magnetic reconnection regions produce type III radio bursts. Not all the observed reconnection events produce X-ray events or coronal or interplanetary type III bursts; thus different special conditions exist for electrons leaving reconnection regions to produce observable radio, EUV, UV, and X-ray bursts.