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We present observations that suggest the Xline of guidefield magnetic reconnection is not necessarily orthogonal to the plane in which magnetic reconnection is occurring. The plane of magnetic reconnection is often referred to as the
 Award ID(s):
 2109083
 NSFPAR ID:
 10521650
 Publisher / Repository:
 American Astronomical Society
 Date Published:
 Journal Name:
 The Astrophysical Journal Letters
 Volume:
 941
 Issue:
 2
 ISSN:
 20418205
 Page Range / eLocation ID:
 L34
 Format(s):
 Medium: X
 Sponsoring Org:
 National Science Foundation
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Abstract LMN coordinate system for magnetic reconnection events is sometimes determined by definingN as the direction of the gradient across the current sheet andL as the direction of maximum variance of the magnetic field. The third direction,M , is often assumed to be the direction of zero gradient, and thus the orientation of the X line. But when there is a guide field, the X line direction may have a significant component in the L direction defined in this way. For a 2D description, a coordinate system describing such an event would preferably be defined using a different coordinate directionM ′ oriented along the X line. Here we use a 3D particle‐in‐cell simulation to show that the X line is oriented approximately along the direction bisecting the asymptotic magnetic field directions on the two sides of the current sheet. We describe two possible ways to determine the orientation of the X line from spacecraft data, one using the minimum gradient direction from Minimum Directional Derivative analysis at distances of the order of the current sheet thickness from the X line, and another using the bisection direction based on the asymptotic magnetic fields outside the current sheet. We discuss conditions for validity of these estimates, and we illustrate these conditions using several Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) events. We also show that intersection of a flux rope due to secondary reconnection with the primary X line can destroy invariance along the X line and negate the validity of a two‐dimensional description. 
Abstract Magnetic reconnection is a fundamental plasma process that has been studied with analytical theory, numerical simulations, in situ observations, and laboratory experiments for decades. The models that have been established to describe magnetic reconnection often assume a reconnection plane normal to the current sheet in which an antiparallel magnetic field annihilates. The annihilation points, also known as the Xpoints, form an x line, which is believed to be perpendicular to the reconnection plane. Recently, a new study using Magnetospheric Multiscale mission observations has challenged our understanding of magnetic reconnection by providing evidence that the x line is not necessarily orthogonal to the reconnection plane. In this study we report a second nonorthogonal x line event with similar features as that in the previous case study, supporting that the sheared x line phenomenon is not an aberrant event. We employ a detailed directional derivative analysis to identify the x line direction and show that the inplane reconnection characteristics are well maintained even with a nonorthogonal x line. In addition, we find the x line tends to follow the magnetic field on one side of the current sheet, which suggests an asymmetry across the current sheet. We discuss the possibility that the nonorthogonal x line arises from an interplay between the two aspects of reconnection: the macroscopic magnetic field topology and microscopic particle kinetics.more » « less

Abstract We examine the 11 July 2017 electron diffusion region (EDR)observed by the MagnetosphericMultiscale (MMS) mission using Poynting's theorem. The terms in Poynting's theorem are determined using a linear gradient approximation to obtain barycentric averages within the MMS tetrahedron. We find that Poynting's theorem is approximately balanced in the EDR and the balance is improved if the calculation of
is restricted to the LN plane. The work rate per unit volume is mostly balanced by the divergence of the electromagnetic energy flux , indicating that the electromagnetic energy density remains relatively constant within the EDR during the encounter. We also use particle‐in‐cell (PIC) simulations to examine Poynting's theorem near an x line evolving in time. The central EDR in the simulation is characterized by approximate time independent balance in Poynting's theorem during reconnection growth, while the outer EDR exhibits time‐dependent fluctuations indicative of more chaotic behavior. 
Abstract While vorticity defined as the curl of the velocity has been broadly used in fluid and plasma physics, this quantity has been underutilized in space physics due to low time resolution observations. We report Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) observations of enhanced electron vorticity in the vicinity of the electron diffusion region of magnetic reconnection. On 11 July 2017 MMS traversed the magnetotail current sheet, observing tailward‐to‐earthward outflow reversal, current‐carrying electron jets in the direction along the electron meandering motion or out‐of‐plane direction, agyrotropic electron distribution functions, and dissipative signatures. At the edge of the electron jets, the electron vorticity increased with magnitudes greater than the electron gyrofrequency. The out‐of‐plane velocity shear along distance from the current sheet leads to the enhanced vorticity. This, in turn, contributes to the magnetic field perturbations observed by MMS. These observations indicate that electron vorticity can act as a proxy for delineating the electron diffusion region of magnetic reconnection.

Abstract We investigate waves close to the lower‐hybrid frequency in 12 magnetotail reconnection electron diffusion region (EDR) events with guide field levels of near‐zero to 30%. In about half of the events, the wave vector has a small component along the current sheet normal, consistent with known lower‐hybrid drift wave properties, but the perpendicular magnetic field fluctuations can be comparable or greater than the parallel component, a feature unique to the waves inside and adjacent to EDRs. Another new wave property is that the wave vector has a significant component along the current sheet normal in some events and completely along the normal for one event. In 1/4 of the events, the
term has a significant contribution to the wave electric field, possibly a feature of lower‐hybrid waves more likely to exist in the diffusion region than further away from the X‐line. Electron temperature variations are correlated with the wave potential, due to wave electric field acceleration and crossings at the corrugated separatrix region with different amounts of mixing between reconnection inflowing and outflowing populations. The latter also leads to the anti‐correlation between parallel and perpendicular temperature components. Using four‐spacecraft measurements, the magnetic field line twisting is demonstrated by the correlated fluctuations in and . The lower‐hybrid wave in the EDR of weak guide field reconnection may be generated near separatrices and penetrate to the mid‐plane or locally generated, and the latter possibility is beyond the prediction of previous reconnection simulations.