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  1. 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
  2. Abstract The SWEAP instrument suite on Parker Solar Probe (PSP) has detected numerous proton beams associated with coherent, circularly polarized, ion-scale waves observed by PSP’s FIELDS instrument suite. Measurements during PSP Encounters 4−8 revealed pronounced complex shapes in the proton velocity distribution functions (VDFs), in which the tip of the beam undergoes strong perpendicular diffusion, resulting in VDF level contours that resemble a “hammerhead.” We refer to these proton beams, with their attendant “hammerhead” features, as the ion strahl. We present an example of these observations occurring simultaneously with a 7 hr ion-scale wave storm and show results from amore »preliminary attempt at quantifying the occurrence of ion-strahl broadening through three-component ion VDF fitting. We also provide a possible explanation of the ion perpendicular scattering based on quasilinear theory and the resonant scattering of beam ions by parallel-propagating, right circularly polarized, fast magnetosonic/whistler waves.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available January 1, 2023
  3. Abstract The hot and diffuse nature of the Sun’s extended atmosphere allows it to persist in non-equilibrium states for long enough that wave–particle instabilities can arise and modify the evolution of the expanding solar wind. Determining which instabilities arise, and how significant a role they play in governing the dynamics of the solar wind, has been a decades-long process involving in situ observations at a variety of radial distances. With new measurements from the Parker Solar Probe (PSP), we can study what wave modes are driven near the Sun, and calculate what instabilities are predicted for different models of themore »underlying particle populations. We model two hours-long intervals of PSP/SPAN-i measurements of the proton phase-space density during the PSP’s fourth perihelion with the Sun using two commonly used descriptions for the underlying velocity distribution. The linear stability and growth rates associated with the two models are calculated and compared. We find that both selected intervals are susceptible to resonant instabilities, though the growth rates and kinds of modes driven unstable vary depending on whether the protons are modeled using one or two components. In some cases, the predicted growth rates are large enough to compete with other dynamic processes, such as the nonlinear turbulent transfer of energy, in contrast with relatively slower instabilities at larger radial distances from the Sun.« less
  4. 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.more »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.« less