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  1. Abstract

    Reconnection in the magnetotail occurs along so‐called X‐lines, where magnetic field lines tear and detach from plasma on microscopic spatial scales (comparable to particle gyroradii). In 2017–2020, the Magnetospheric MultiScale (MMS) mission detected X‐lines in the magnetotail enabling their investigation on local scales. However, the global structure and evolution of these X‐lines, critical for understanding their formation and total energy conversion mechanisms, remained virtually unknown because of the intrinsically local nature of observations and the extreme sparsity of concurrent data. Here, we show that mining a multi‐mission archive of space magnetometer data collected over the last 26 yr and then fitting a magnetic field representation modeled using flexible basis‐functions faithfully reconstructs the global pattern of X‐lines; 24 of the 26 modeled X‐lines match (Bz = 0 isocontours are within ∼2 Earth radii orRE) or nearly match (Bz = 2 nT isocontours are within ∼2RE) the locations of the MMS encountered reconnection sites. The obtained global reconnection picture is considered in the context of substorm activity, including conventional substorms and more complex events.

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  2. 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 ofis restricted to the LN plane. The work rate per unit volumeis 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.

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  3. Abstract

    Substorm‐type evolution of the Earth's magnetosphere is investigated by mining more than two decades (1995–2017) of spaceborne magnetometer data from multiple missions including the first two years (2016‐2017) of the Magnetospheric MultiScale mission. This investigation reveals interesting features of plasma evolution distinct from ideal magnetohydrodynamics (MHD) behavior: X‐lines, thin current sheets, and regions with the tailward gradient of the equatorial magnetic fieldBz. X‐lines are found to form mainly beyond 20RE, but for strong driving, with the solar wind electric field exceeding ∼5mV/m, they may come closer. For substorms with weaker driving, X‐lines may be preceded by redistribution of the magnetic flux in the tailwardBzgradient regions, similar to the magnetic flux release instability discovered earlier in PIC and MHD simulations as a precursor mechanism of the reconnection onset. Current sheets in the growth phase may be as thin as 0.2RE, comparable to the thermal ions gyroradius, and at the same time, as long as 15RE. Such an aspect ratio is inconsistent with the isotropic force balance for observed magnetic field configurations. These findings can help resolve kinetic mechanisms of substorm dipolarizations and adjust kinetic generalizations of global MHD models of the magnetosphere. They can also guide and complement microscale analysis of nonideal effects.

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  4. Magnetic reconnection is an energy conversion process that occurs in many astrophysical contexts including Earth’s magnetosphere, where the process can be investigated in situ by spacecraft. On 11 July 2017, the four Magnetospheric Multiscale spacecraft encountered a reconnection site in Earth’s magnetotail, where reconnection involves symmetric inflow conditions. The electron-scale plasma measurements revealed (i) super-Alfvénic electron jets reaching 15,000 kilometers per second; (ii) electron meandering motion and acceleration by the electric field, producing multiple crescent-shaped structures in the velocity distributions; and (iii) the spatial dimensions of the electron diffusion region with an aspect ratio of 0.1 to 0.2, consistent with fast reconnection. The well-structured multiple layers of electron populations indicate that the dominant electron dynamics are mostly laminar, despite the presence of turbulence near the reconnection site. 
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  5. Abstract

    Plasma and wave measurements from the NASA Magnetospheric Multiscale mission are presented for magnetotail reconnection events on 3 July and 11 July 2017. Linear dispersion analyses were performed using distribution functions comprising up to six drifting bi‐Maxwellian distributions. In both events electron crescent‐shaped distributions are shown to be responsible for upper hybrid waves near the X‐line. In an adjacent location within the 3 July event a monodirectional field‐aligned electron beam drove parallel‐propagating beam‐mode waves. In the 11 July event an electron distribution consisting of a drifting core and two crescents was shown to generate upper‐hybrid and beam‐mode waves at three different frequencies, explaining the observed broadband waves. Multiple harmonics of the upper hybrid waves were observed but cannot be explained by the linear dispersion analysis since they result from nonlinear beam interactions.

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  6. Abstract

    Kinetic structures of electron diffusion regions (EDRs) under finite guide fields in magnetotail reconnection are reported. The EDRs with guide fields 0.14–0.5 (in unit of the reconnecting component) are detected by the Magnetospheric Multiscale spacecraft. The key new features include the following: (1) cold inflowing electrons accelerated along the guide field and demagnetized at the magnetic field minimum while remaining a coherent population with a low perpendicular temperature, (2) wave fluctuations generating strong perpendicular electron flows followed by alternating parallel flows inside the reconnecting current sheet under an intermediate guide field, and (3) gyrophase bunched electrons with high parallel speeds leaving the X‐line region. The normalized reconnection rates for the three EDRs range from 0.05 to 0.3. The measurements reveal that finite guide fields introduce new mechanisms to break the electron frozen‐in condition.

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  7. Abstract

    Electron inflow and outflow velocities during magnetic reconnection at and near the dayside magnetopause are measured using satellites from NASA's Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) mission. A case study is examined in detail, and three other events with similar behavior are shown, with one of them being a recently published electron‐only reconnection event in the magnetosheath. The measured inflow speeds of 200–400 km/s imply dimensionless reconnection rates of 0.05–0.25 when normalized to the relevant electron Alfvén speed, which are within the range of expectations. The outflow speeds are about 1.5–3 times the inflow speeds, which is consistent with theoretical predictions of the aspect ratio of the inner electron diffusion region. A reconnection rate of 0.04 ± 25% was obtained for the case study event using the reconnection electric field as compared to the 0.12 ± 20% rate determined from the inflow velocity.

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