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Title: The relation between the energy conversion rate and reconnection rate in Petschek-type reconnection—Implications for solar flares
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Physics of Plasmas
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National Science Foundation
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  1. null (Ed.)
  2. Abstract

    The role a geospace plume in influencing the efficiency of magnetopause reconnection is an open question with two contrasting theories being debated. A local‐control theory suggests that a plume decreases both local and global reconnection rates, whereas a global‐control theory argues that the global reconnection rate is controlled by the solar wind rather than local physics. Observationally, limited numbers of point measurements from spacecraft cannot reveal whether a local change affects the global reconnection. A distributed observatory is hence needed to assess the validity of the two theories. We use THEMIS and Los Alamos National Laboratory spacecraft to identify the occurrence of a geospace plume and its contact with the magnetopause. Global evolution and morphology of the plume is traced using GPS measurements. SuperDARN is then used to monitor the distribution and the strength of dayside reconnection. Two storm‐time geospace plume events are examined and show that as the plume contacts the magnetopause, the efficiency of reconnection decreases at the contact longitude. The amount of local decrease is 81% and 68% for the two events, and both values are consistent with the mass loading effect of the plume if the plume's atomic mass is ∼4 amu. Reconnection in the surrounding is enhanced, and when the solar wind driving is stable, little variation is seen in the cross polar cap potential. This study illuminates a pathway to resolve the role of cold dense plasma on solar wind‐magnetosphere coupling, and the observations suggest that plumes redistribute magnetopause reconnection activity without changing the global strength substantially.

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  3. Abstract

    The rate of magnetic reconnection is of the utmost importance in a variety of processes because it controls, for example, the rate energy is released in solar flares, the speed of the Dungey convection cycle in Earth’s magnetosphere, and the energy release rate in harmful geomagnetic substorms. It is known from numerical simulations and satellite observations that the rate is approximately 0.1 in normalized units, but despite years of effort, a full theoretical prediction has not been obtained. Here, we present a first-principles theory for the reconnection rate in non-relativistic electron-ion collisionless plasmas, and show that the same prediction explains why Sweet-Parker reconnection is considerably slower. The key consideration of this analysis is the pressure at the reconnection site (i.e., the x-line). We show that the Hall electromagnetic fields in antiparallel reconnection cause an energy void, equivalently a pressure depletion, at the x-line, so the reconnection exhaust opens out, enabling the fast rate of 0.1. If the energy can reach the x-line to replenish the pressure, the exhaust does not open out. In addition to heliospheric applications, these results are expected to impact reconnection studies in planetary magnetospheres, magnetically confined fusion devices, and astrophysical plasmas.

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