Evolutions of non-steady-state magnetic reconnection

Weigang Wan; Lapenta, Giovanni
October 2008
Physics of Plasmas;Oct2008, Vol. 15 Issue 10, p102302
Academic Journal
The full evolutions of collisionless non-steady-state magnetic reconnection are studied with full kinetic particle-in-cell simulations. There are different stages of reconnection: the onset or early growing stage when the out-of-plane electric field (Ey) structure is a monopole at the X-point, the bipolar stage when the Ey structure is bipolar and the outer electron diffusion region (EDR) is being elongated over time, and the possible final steady-state stage when Ey is uniform in the reconnection plane. We find the change of reconnection rate is not empowered or dependent on the length of the EDR. During the early growing stage, the EDR is elongated while the reconnection rate is growing. During the later stage, the reconnection rate may significantly decrease but the length of the inner EDR is largely stable. The results indicate that reconnection is not controlled by the downstream physics, but rather by the availability of plasma inflows from upstream. The physical mechanism of the EDR elongation is studied. The Hall current induced by the quadrupole magnetic field (By) is discovered to play an important role in this process. The condition of forming an extended electron super-Alfvénic outflow jet structure in nature is discussed. The jet structure could be elongated during the bipolar stage, and remains stable during steady state. The sufficiency of the electron inflow is crucial for the elongation. Open boundary conditions are applied in the outflow direction.


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