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  1. Electrons in earth's magnetotail are energized significantly both in the form of heating and in the form of acceleration to non-thermal energies. While magnetic reconnection is considered to play an important role in this energization, it still remains unclear how electrons are energized and how energy is partitioned between thermal and non-thermal components. Here, we show, based on in situ observations by NASA's magnetospheric multiscale mission combined with multi-component spectral fitting methods, that the average electron energy [Formula: see text] (or equivalently temperature) is substantially higher when the locally averaged electric field magnitude [Formula: see text] is also higher. Whilemore »this result is consistent with the classification of “plasma-sheet” and “tail-lobe” reconnection during which reconnection is considered to occur on closed and open magnetic field lines, respectively, it further suggests that a stochastic Fermi acceleration in 3D, reconnection-driven turbulence is essential for the production and confinement of energetic electrons in the reconnection region. The puzzle is that the non-thermal power-law component can be quite small even when the electric field is large and the bulk population is significantly heated. The fraction of non-thermal electron energies varies from sample to sample between ∼20% and ∼60%, regardless of the electric field magnitude. Interestingly, these values of non-thermal fractions are similar to those obtained for the above-the-looptop hard x-ray coronal sources for solar flares.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available May 1, 2023
  2. Abstract We present a data set and properties of 18,785 proton kinetic-scale current sheets collected over 124 days in the solar wind using magnetic field measurements at 1/11 s resolution aboard the Wind spacecraft. We show that all of the current sheets are in the parameter range where reconnection is not suppressed by diamagnetic drift of the X-line. We argue this necessary condition for magnetic reconnection is automatically satisfied due to the geometry of current sheets dictated by their source, which is the local plasma turbulence. The current sheets are shown to be elongated along the background magnetic field andmore »dependence of the current sheet geometry on local plasma beta is revealed. We conclude that reconnection in the solar wind is not likely to be suppressed or controlled by the diamagnetic suppression condition.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 1, 2022
  3. Free, publicly-accessible full text available January 1, 2023
  4. Abstract A major discovery of Parker Solar Probe (PSP) was the presence of large numbers of localized increases in the radial solar wind speed and associated sharp deflections of the magnetic field—switchbacks (SBs). A possible generation mechanism of SBs is through magnetic reconnection between open and closed magnetic flux near the solar surface, termed interchange reconnection, that leads to the ejection of flux ropes (FRs) into the solar wind. Observations also suggest that SBs undergo merging, consistent with an FR picture of these structures. The role of FR merging in controlling the structure of SBs in the solar wind ismore »explored through direct observations, analytic analysis, and numerical simulations. Analytic analysis reveals key features of the structure of FRs and their scaling with heliocentric distance R, which are consistent with observations and demonstrate the critical role of merging in controlling the structure of SBs. FR merging is shown to energetically favor reductions in the strength of the wrapping magnetic field and the elongation of SBs. A further consequence is the resulting dominance of the axial magnetic field within SBs that leads to the observed characteristic sharp rotation of the magnetic field into the axial direction at the SB boundary. Finally, the radial scaling of the SB area in the FR model suggests that the observational probability of SB identification should be insensitive to R , which is consistent with the most recent statistical analysis of SB observations from PSP.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available February 1, 2023
  5. Observations in Earth’s turbulent magnetosheath downstream of a quasiparallel bow shock reveal a prevalence of electron-scale current sheets favorable for electron-only reconnection where ions are not coupled to the reconnecting magnetic fields. In small-scale turbulence, magnetic structures associated with intense current sheets are limited in all dimensions. And since the coupling of ions are constrained by a minimum length scale, the dynamics of electron reconnection is likely to be 3D. Here, both 2D and 3D kinetic particle-in-cell simulations are used to investigate electron-only reconnection, focusing on the reconnection rate and associated electron flows. A new form of 3D electron-only reconnectionmore »spontaneously develops where the magnetic X-line is localized in the out-of-plane (z) direction. The consequence is an enhancement of the reconnection rate compared with two dimensions, which results from differential mass flux out of the diffusion region along z, enabling a faster inflow velocity and thus a larger reconnection rate. This outflow along z is due to the magnetic tension force in z just as the conventional exhaust tension force, allowing particles to leave the diffusion region efficiently along z unlike the 2D configuration.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available October 1, 2022
  6. Context. Flux ropes in the solar wind are a key element of heliospheric dynamics and particle acceleration. When associated with current sheets, the primary formation mechanism is magnetic reconnection and flux ropes in current sheets are commonly used as tracers of the reconnection process. Aims. Whilst flux ropes associated with reconnecting current sheets in the solar wind have been reported, their occurrence, size distribution, and lifetime are not well understood. Methods. Here we present and analyse new Solar Orbiter magnetic field data reporting novel observations of a flux rope confined to a bifurcated current sheet in the solar wind. Comparativemore »data and large-scale context is provided by Wind. Results. The Solar Orbiter observations reveal that the flux rope, which does not span the current sheet, is of ion scale, and in a reconnection formation scenario, existed for a prolonged period of time as it was carried out in the reconnection exhaust. Wind is also found to have observed clear signatures of reconnection at what may be the same current sheet, thus demonstrating that reconnection signatures can be found separated by as much as ∼2000 Earth radii, or 0.08 au. Conclusions. The Solar Orbiter observations provide new insight into the hierarchy of scales on which flux ropes can form, and show that they exist down to the ion scale in the solar wind. The context provided by Wind extends the spatial scale over which reconnection signatures have been found at solar wind current sheets. The data suggest the local orientations of the current sheet at Solar Orbiter and Wind are rotated relative to each other, unlike reconnection observed at smaller separations; the implications of this are discussed with reference to patchy vs. continuous reconnection scenarios.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 1, 2022
  7. Abstract One of the striking observations from the Parker Solar Probe (PSP) spacecraft is the prevalence in the inner heliosphere of large amplitude, Alfvénic magnetic field reversals termed switchbacks . These δ B R / B ∼  ( 1 ) fluctuations occur over a range of timescales and in patches separated by intervals of quiet, radial magnetic field. We use measurements from PSP to demonstrate that patches of switchbacks are localized within the extensions of plasma structures originating at the base of the corona. These structures are characterized by an increase in alpha particle abundance, Mach number, plasma βmore »and pressure, and by depletions in the magnetic field magnitude and electron temperature. These intervals are in pressure balance, implying stationary spatial structure, and the field depressions are consistent with overexpanded flux tubes. The structures are asymmetric in Carrington longitude with a steeper leading edge and a small (∼1°) edge of hotter plasma and enhanced magnetic field fluctuations. Some structures contain suprathermal ions to ∼85 keV that we argue are the energetic tail of the solar wind alpha population. The structures are separated in longitude by angular scales associated with supergranulation. This suggests that these switchbacks originate near the leading edge of the diverging magnetic field funnels associated with the network magnetic field—the primary wind sources. We propose an origin of the magnetic field switchbacks, hot plasma and suprathermals, alpha particles in interchange reconnection events just above the solar transition region and our measurements represent the extended regions of a turbulent outflow exhaust.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 1, 2022
  8. Abstract In this paper we examine a low-energy solar energetic particle (SEP) event observed by IS⊙IS’s Energetic Particle Instrument-Low (EPI-Lo) inside 0.18 au on 2020 September 30. This small SEP event has a very interesting time profile and ion composition. Our results show that the maximum energy and peak in intensity are observed mainly along the open radial magnetic field. The event shows velocity dispersion, and strong particle anisotropies are observed throughout the event, showing that more particles are streaming outward from the Sun. We do not see a shock in the in situ plasma or magnetic field data throughoutmore »the event. Heavy ions, such as O and Fe, were detected in addition to protons and 4He, but without significant enhancements in 3He or energetic electrons. Our analysis shows that this event is associated with a slow streamer blowout coronal mass ejection (SBO-CME), and the signatures of this small CME event are consistent with those typical of larger CME events. The time–intensity profile of this event shows that the Parker Solar Probe encountered the western flank of the SBO-CME. The anisotropic and dispersive nature of this event in a shockless local plasma gives indications that these particles are most likely accelerated remotely near the Sun by a weak shock or compression wave ahead of the SBO-CME. This event may represent direct observations of the source of the low-energy SEP seed particle population.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available February 1, 2023
  9. Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 1, 2022