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NAM2012 - All Presentation Details

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In situ measurement of the magnetic reconnection diffusion region in the Earth’s magnetotail

Author: Dr. Jonathan Eastwood

Imperial College London

Co-Authors: M. A. Shay (University of Delaware), T. D. Phan (UC Berkeley), M. Oieroset (UC Berkeley), A. Borg (Norwegian Defense Research Establishment)

Session: MST1: Magnetic Reconnection in Space and Astrophysical Plasmas

Presentation type: Talk      10:00  Thursday 29th 10:00-11:15 


Magnetic reconnection is a universal plasma process that is important in solar, space and astrophysical plasmas. At Earth, it allows the solar wind to enter the magnetosphere and also enables the explosive release of stored magnetic energy in the lobes of the magnetotail, powering substorms and storms. Magnetic reconnection in the magnetosphere is collisionless, a condition which is hard to reproduce in the laboratory. As such, space observations are crucial and one benefit of studying reconnection in the magnetosphere is that observations can be made in situ, providing highly detailed data which can be quantitatively compared with theory and simulations. Significant progress has been made in recent years using data from Cluster and THEMIS. Observations summarising what we now know about magnetic reconnection, and particularly the ion diffusion region will be presented. A new result is the discovery of super-Alfvenic flows of energy associated with kinetic electrons dynamics near the magnetic separatrices. This generates a substantial Poynting flux which can exceed that due to the bulk ion flows and may have significant implications for understanding how the aurora is powered. Finally we will consider how the reconnection process partitions energy in the reconnection outflow jets.

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