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  1. Abstract

    Magnetic reconnection and plasma turbulence are ubiquitous and key processes in the Universe. These two processes are suggested to be intrinsically related: magnetic reconnection can develop turbulence, and, in turn, turbulence can influence or excite magnetic reconnection. In this study, we report a rare and unique electron diffusion region (EDR) observed by the Magnetospheric Multiscale mission in the Earth’s magnetotail with significantly enhanced energetic particle fluxes. The EDR is in a region of strong turbulence within which the plasma density is dramatically depleted. We present three salient features. (1) Despite the turbulence, the EDR behaves nearly the same as that in 2D quasi-planar reconnection; the observations suggest that magnetic reconnection continues for several minutes. (2) The observed reconnection electric field and inferred energy transport are exceptionally large. However, the aspect ratio of the EDR (one definition of reconnection rate) is fairly typical. Instead, extraordinarily large-amplitude Hall electric fields appear to enable the strong energy transport. (3) We hypothesize that the high-energy transport rate, density depletion, and the strong particle acceleration are related to a near-runaway effect, which is due to the combination of low-plasma-density inflow (from lobes) and possible positive feedback between turbulence and reconnection. The detailed study on this EDR gives insight into the interplay between reconnection and turbulence, and the possible near-runaway effect, which may play an important role in other particle acceleration in astrophysical plasma.

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  2. Abstract

    AnLMNcoordinate system for magnetic reconnection events is sometimes determined by definingNas the direction of the gradient across the current sheet andLas 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.

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  3. Understanding the nature and characteristics of high-frequency waves inside a flux rope may be important as the wave-particle interaction is important for charged-particle energization and the ensuing dissipation process. We analyze waves generated by an electron beam in a crater-shaped magnetic flux rope observed by MMS spacecraft on the dawnside tailward magnetopause. In this MMS observation, a depression of magnetic field, or a crater, of ∼100 km is located at the center of the magnetic flux rope of ∼650 km. There exist parallel and perpendicular electrostatic wave modes inside the depression of the magnetic field at the center of the flux rope, and they are distinguished by their locations and frequencies. The parallel mode exists at the center of the magnetic depression and its power spectrum peaks below F ce (electron cyclotron frequency). In contrast, the perpendicular mode exists in the outer region associated with the magnetic depression, and its power spectrum peaks near F ce . The linear analysis of kinetic instability using a generalized dispersion solver shows that the parallel mode can be generated by the electron beam of 5,000 km/s. They can thermalize electrons ≲100 eV effectively. However, the generation mechanism of the perpendicular mode is not clear yet, which requires further study. 
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  5. Abstract

    Whistler waves are often observed in magnetopause reconnection associated with electron beams. We analyze seven MMS crossings surrounding the electron diffusion region (EDR) to study the role of electron beams in whistler excitation. Waves have two major types: (a) Narrow‐band waves with high ellipticities and (b) broad‐band waves that are more electrostatic with significant variations in ellipticities and wave normal angles. While both types of waves are associated with electron beams, the key difference is the anisotropy of the background population, with perpendicular and parallel anisotropies, respectively. The linear instability analysis suggests that the first type of wave is mainly due to the background anisotropy, with the beam contributing additional cyclotron resonance to enhance the wave growth. The second type of broadband waves are excited via Landau resonance, and as seen in one event, the beam anisotropy induces an additional cyclotron mode. The results are supported by particle‐in‐cell simulations. We infer that the first type occurs downstream of the central EDR, where background electrons experience Betatron acceleration to form the perpendicular anisotropy; the second type occurs in the central EDR of guide field reconnection. A parametric study is conducted with linear instability analysis. A beam anisotropy alone of above ∼3 likely excites the cyclotron mode waves. Large beam drifts cause Doppler shifts and may lead to left‐hand polarizations in the ion frame. Future studies are needed to determine whether the observation covers a broader parameter regime and to understand the competition between whistler and other instabilities.

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  6. Abstract

    Using a two‐dimensional particle‐in‐cell simulation, we investigate the effects and roles of upper‐hybrid waves (UHW) near the electron diffusion region (EDR). The energy dissipation via the wave‐particle interaction in our simulation agrees withJ · Emeasured by magnetospheric multiscale (MMS) spacecraft. It means that UHW contributes to the local energy dissipation. As a result of wave‐particle interactions, plasma parameters which determine the larger‐scale energy dissipation in the EDR are changed. They‐directional current decreases while the pressure tensorPyzincreases/decreases when the agyrotropic beam density is low/high, where(x, y, z)‐coordinates correspond the(L, M, N)‐boundary coordinates. Because the reconnection electric field comes fromPyz/z, our result implies that UHW plays an additional role in affecting larger‐scale energy dissipation in the EDR by changing plasma parameters. We provide a simple diagram that shows how the UHW activities change the profiles of plasma parameters near the EDR comparing cases with and without UHW.

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  7. Abstract

    National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Magnetosphere Multiscale mission reveals that agyrotropic electrons and intense waves are prevalently present in the electron diffusion region. Prompted by two distinct Magnetosphere Multiscale observations, this letter investigates by theoretical means and the properties of agyrotropic electron beam‐plasma instability and explains the origin of different structures in the wave spectra. The difference is owing to the fact that in one instance, a continuous beam mode is excited, while in the other, discrete Bernstein modes are excited, and the excitation of one mode versus the other depends on physical input parameters, which are consistent with observations. Analyses of dispersion relations show that the growing mode becomes discrete when the maximum growth rate is lower than the electron cyclotron frequency. Making use of particle‐in‐cell simulations, we found that the broadening anglein the gyroangle space is also an important factor controlling the growth rate. Ramifications of the present finding are also discussed.

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  8. Abstract

    Magnetic reconnection is a fundamental process of energy conversion in plasmas between electromagnetic fields and particles. Magnetic reconnection has been observed directly in a variety of plasmas in the solar wind and Earth's magnetosphere. Most recently, electron magnetic reconnection without ion coupling was observed for the first time in the turbulent magnetosheath and within the transition region of Earth's bow shock. In the ion foreshock upstream of Earth's bow shock, there may also be magnetic reconnection especially around foreshock transients that are very turbulent and dynamic. With observations from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Magnetospheric Multiscale mission inside foreshock transients, we report two events of magnetic reconnection with and without a strong guide field, respectively. In both events, a super‐ion‐Alfvénic electron jet was observed within a current sheet with thickness less than or comparable to one ion inertial length. In both events, energy was converted from the magnetic field to electrons, manifested as an increase in electron temperature. Weak or no ion coupling was observed in either event. Results from particle‐in‐cell simulations of magnetic reconnection with and without a strong guide field are qualitatively consistent with observations. Our results imply that magnetic reconnection is another electron acceleration/heating process inside foreshock transients and could play an important role in shock dynamics.

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  9. Abstract

    We report evidence of magnetic reconnection in the transition region of the Earth's bow shock when the angle between the shock normal and the immediate upstream magnetic field is 65°. An ion‐skin‐depth‐scale current sheet exhibits the Hall current and field pattern, electron outflow jet, and enhanced energy conversion rate through the nonideal electric field, all consistent with a reconnection diffusion region close to the X‐line. In the diffusion region, electrons are modulated by electromagnetic waves. An ion exhaust with energized field‐aligned ions and electron parallel heating are observed in the same shock transition region. The energized ions are more separated from the inflowing ions in velocity above the current sheet than below, possibly due to the shear flow between the two inflow regions. The observation suggests that magnetic reconnection may contribute to shock energy dissipation.

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