The Hall fields and fast magnetic reconnection

Drake, J. F.; Shay, M. A.; Swisdak, M.
April 2008
Physics of Plasmas;Apr2008, Vol. 15 Issue 4, p042306
Academic Journal
The results of large-scale, particle-in-cell simulations are presented on the role of Hall electric and magnetic fields on the structure of the electron dissipation region and outflow exhaust during the collisionless magnetic reconnection of antiparallel fields. The simulations reveal that the whistler wave plays the key role in driving the electrons away from the magnetic x-line. Further downstream the electron outflow exhaust consists of a narrow super-Alfvénic jet, which remains collimated far downstream of the x-line, flanked by a pedestal whose width increases monotonically with increasing distance downstream. The open outflow exhaust, which is required for fast reconnection in large systems, is driven by the Hall electric and magnetic fields. Finally, it is the whistler that ultimately facilitates fast reconnection by diverting the electrons flowing toward the current layer into the outflow direction and thereby limiting the length of this layer. The results are contrasted with reconnection in an electron-positron plasma where the Hall fields are absent. The consequence of the expanding outflow exhaust is that, consistent with recent observations, the extended super-Alfvénic electron outflow jet carries a smaller and smaller fraction of the outflowing electrons with increasing distance downstream of the x-line. The results suggest that the structure of the electron current layer and exhaust in simulations might be sensitive to boundary conditions unless the simulation boundary along the outflow direction is sufficiently far from the x-line.


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