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  1. Abstract

    We present observations that suggest the X-line of guide-field 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 theL–Nplane, whereLis the direction of the reversing and reconnecting magnetic field andNis normal to the current sheet. The X-line is often assumed to be orthogonal to theL–Nplane (defined as theM-direction) in the majority of theoretical studies and numerical simulations. The four-satellite Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) mission, however, observes a guide-field magnetic reconnection event in Earth’s magnetotail in which the X-line may be oblique to theL–Nplane. This finding is somewhat opportune as two of the MMS satellites at the sameNlocation report nearly identical observations with no significant time delays in the electron diffusion region (EDR) even though they have substantial separation inL. A minimum directional derivative analysis suggests that the X-line is between 40° and 60° fromM, adding support that the X-line is oblique. Furthermore, the measured ion velocity is inconsistent with the apparent motion of the MMS spacecraft in theL-direction through the EDR, which can be resolved if one assumes a shear in theL–Nplane and motion in theM-direction. A nonorthogonal X-line, if somewhat common, would call for revisiting theory and simulations of guide-field magnetic reconnection, reexamination of how the reconnection electric field is supported in the EDR, and reconsidering the large-scale geometry of the X-line.

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