Observation of Magnetic Reconnection in a Region of Strong Turbulence

Robert E. Ergun*, N. Pathak, M. E. Usanova, Y. Qi, T. Vo, J. L. Burch, S. J. Schwartz, R. B. Torbert, N. Ahmadi, F. D. Wilder, A. Chasipis, D. L. Newman, J. E. Stawarz, M. Hesse, D. L. Turner, D. Gershman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
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We examine a rare and interesting observation of magnetic reconnection embedded in a large-scale region of strong turbulence in which magnetic field annihilation is energizing ions and electrons. The magnetic reconnection event is in Earth’s magnetotail and is associated with enhanced energetic particle fluxes indicating local particle acceleration. Despite substantial electric and magnetic field fluctuations throughout the surrounding, large-scale region, the ongoing magnetic reconnection has many similar properties to laminar, 2D magnetic reconnection including Hall electric fields, Hall magnetic fields, a thin electron current sheet, and ion and electron jets. Notably, the electron jet emerging from the electron diffusion region (EDR) appears to transport sufficient off-diagonal momentum to infer that off-diagonal electron stress can support the reconnection electric field in the EDR even in a turbulent environment. Although the electron jet appears to be briefly (∼1 s) deflected or possibly interrupted by an electromagnetic disturbance, the reconnection appears to otherwise continue for a long period (∼30 minutes) as evidenced by a persistent ion jet. This particular finding implies that the fundamental electron-scale processes inside of the EDR in turbulent magnetic reconnection are not necessarily distinct from those in laminar magnetic reconnection. These observations provide direct confirmation that magnetic reconnection can not only be responsible for but also can continue in regions of large-scale turbulence. Because the electric and magnetic fields of strong turbulence are linked to particle acceleration, it follows that particle acceleration also can continue as a consequence of turbulent magnetic reconnection.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberL8
Pages (from-to)1-6
Number of pages6
JournalAstrophysical Journal Letters
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2022
Externally publishedYes


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