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  1. ABSTRACT

    In this study, we explore the statistics of pressure fluctuations in kinetic collisionless turbulence. A 2.5D kinetic particle-in-cell simulation of decaying turbulence is used to investigate pressure balance via the evolution of thermal and magnetic pressure in a plasma with β of order unity. We also discuss the behaviour of thermal, magnetic, and total pressure structure functions and their corresponding wavenumber spectra. The total pressure spectrum exhibits a slope of −7/3 extending for about a decade in the ion-inertial range. In contrast, shallower −5/3 spectra are characteristic of the magnetic pressure and thermal pressure. The steeper total pressure spectrum is a consequence of cancellation caused by density-magnetic field magnitude anti-correlation. Further, we evaluate higher order total pressure structure functions in an effort to discuss intermittency and compare the power exponents with higher order structure functions of velocity and magnetic fluctuations. Finally, applications to astrophysical systems are also discussed.

     
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  2. Abstract We investigate the detailed properties of electron inflow in an electron-only reconnection event observed by the four Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) spacecraft in the Earth's turbulent magnetosheath downstream of the quasi-parallel bow shock. The lack of ion coupling was attributed to the small-scale sizes of the current sheets, and the observed bidirectional super-Alfvénic electron jets indicate that the MMS spacecraft crossed the reconnecting current sheet on both sides of an active X-line. Remarkably, the MMS spacecraft observed the presence of large asymmetries in the two electron inflows, with the inflows (normal to the current sheet) on the two sides of the reconnecting current layer differing by as much as a factor of four. Furthermore, even though the four MMS spacecraft were separated by less than seven electron skin depths, the degree of inflow asymmetry was significantly different at the different spacecraft. The asymmetry in the inflow speeds was larger with increasing distances downstream from the reconnection site, and the asymmetry was opposite on the two sides of the X-line. We compare the MMS observations with a 2D kinetic particle-in-cell (PIC) simulation and find that the asymmetry in the inflow speeds stems from in-plane currents generated via the combination of reconnection-mediated inflows and parallel flows along the magnetic separatrices in the presence of a large guide field. 
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  3. 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 reconnection 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. 
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  4. 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. Comparative 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. 
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  5. null (Ed.)
  6. Abstract

    Electron ring velocity space distributions have previously been seen in numerical simulations of magnetic reconnection exhausts and have been suggested to be caused by the magnetization of the electron outflow jet by the compressed reconnected magnetic fields (Shuster et al., 2014,https://doi.org/10.1002/2014GL060608). We present a theory of the dependence of the major and minor radii of the ring distributions solely in terms of upstream (lobe) plasma conditions, thereby allowing a prediction of the associated temperature and temperature anisotropy of the rings in terms of upstream parameters. We test the validity of the prediction using 2.5‐dimensional particle‐in‐cell (PIC) simulations with varying upstream plasma density and temperature, finding excellent agreement between the predicted and simulated values. We confirm the Shuster et al. suggestion for the cause of the ring distributions, and also find that the ring distributions are located in a region marked by a plateau, or shoulder, in the reconnected magnetic field profile. The predictions of the temperature are consistent with observed electron temperatures in dipolarization fronts, and may provide an explanation for the generation of plasma with temperatures in the 10s of MK in super‐hot solar flares. A possible extension of the model to dayside reconnection is discussed. Since ring distributions are known to excite whistler waves, the present results should be useful for quantifying the generation of whistler waves in reconnection exhausts.

     
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  7. null (Ed.)
    During three of its first five orbits around the Sun, Parker Solar Probe (PSP) crossed the large-scale heliospheric current sheet (HCS) multiple times and provided unprecedented detailed plasma and field observations of the near-Sun HCS. We report the common detections by PSP of reconnection exhaust signatures in the HCS at heliocentric distances of 29.5–107 solar radii during encounters 1, 4, and 5. Both sunward and antisunward-directed reconnection exhausts were observed. In the sunward reconnection exhausts, PSP detected counterstreaming strahl electrons, indicating that HCS reconnection resulted in the formation of closed magnetic field lines with both ends connected to the Sun. In the antisunward exhausts, PSP observed dropouts of strahl electrons, consistent with the reconnected HCS field lines being disconnected from the Sun. The common detection of reconnection in the HCS suggests that reconnection is almost always active in the HCS near the Sun. Furthermore, the occurrence of multiple long-duration partial crossings of the HCS suggests that HCS reconnection could produce chains of large bulges with spatial dimensions of up to several solar radii. The finding of the prevalence of reconnection in the HCS is somewhat surprising since PSP has revealed that the HCS is much thicker than the kinetic scales required for reconnection onset. The observations are also in stark contrast with the apparent absence of reconnection in most of the small-scale and much more intense current sheets encountered near perihelia, many of which are associated with “switchbacks”. Thus, the PSP findings suggest that large-scale dynamics, either locally in the solar wind or within the coronal source of the HCS (at the tip of helmet streamers), plays a critical role in triggering reconnection onset. 
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