Onset of reconnection in the tail requires the current sheet thickness to be of the order of the ion thermal gyroradius or smaller. However, existing isotropic plasma models cannot explain the formation of such thin sheets at distances where the X‐lines are typically observed. Here we reproduce such thin and long sheets in particle‐in‐cell simulations using a new model of their equilibria with weakly anisotropic ion species assuming quasi‐adiabatic ion dynamics, which substantially modifies the current density. It is found that anisotropy/agyrotropy contributions to the force balance in such equilibria are comparable to the pressure gradient in spite of weak ion anisotropy. New equilibria whose current distributions are substantially overstretched compared to the magnetic field lines are found to be stable in spite of the fact that they are substantially longer than isotropic sheets with similar thickness.
Mining of substorm magnetic field data reveals the formation of two X‐lines preceded by the flux accumulation at the tailward end of a thin current sheet (TCS). Three‐dimensional particle‐in‐cell simulations guided by these pre‐onset reconnection features are performed, taking also into account weak external driving, negative charging of TCS and domination of electrons as current carriers. Simulations reveal an interesting multiscale picture. On the global scale, they show the formation of two X‐lines, with stronger magnetic field variations and inhomogeneous electric fields found closer to Earth. The X‐line appearance is preceded by the formation of two diverging electron outflow regions embedded into a single diverging ion outflow pattern and transforming into faster electron‐scale reconnection jets after the onset. Distributions of the agyrotropy parameters suggest that reconnection is provided by ion and then electron demagnetization. The bulk flow and agyrotropy distributions are consistent with MMS observations.more » « less
- NSF-PAR ID:
- Publisher / Repository:
- DOI PREFIX: 10.1029
- Date Published:
- Journal Name:
- Geophysical Research Letters
- Medium: X
- Sponsoring Org:
- National Science Foundation
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