Observations of Particle Acceleration in Magnetic Reconnection–driven Turbulence

Robert E. Ergun, N. Ahmadi, L. Kromyda, S. J. Schwartz, A. Chasapis, S. Hoilijoki, F. D. Wilder, J. E. Stawarz, K. A. Goodrich, D. L. Turner, I. J. Cohen, S. T. Bingham, J. C. Holmes, R. Nakamura, F. Pucci, R. B. Torbert, J. L. Burch, P.-A. Lindqvist, R. J. Strangeway, O. Le ContelBarbara L. Giles

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Citations (Scopus)


The Magnetospheric Multiscale Mission observes, in detail, charged particle heating and substantial nonthermal acceleration in a region of strong turbulence (, where is the magnetic field) that surrounds a magnetic reconnection X-line. Magnetic reconnection enables magnetic field annihilation in a volume that far exceeds that of the diffusion region. The formidable magnetic field annihilation breaks into strong, intermittent turbulence with magnetic field energy as the driver. The strong, intermittent turbulence appears to generate the necessary conditions for nonthermal acceleration. It creates intense, localized currents () and unusually large-amplitude electric fields (). The combination of turbulence-generated and results in a significant net positive mean of , which signifies particle energization. Ion and electron heating rates are such that they experience a fourfold increase from their initial temperature. Importantly, the strong turbulence also generates magnetic holes or depletions in that can trap particles. Trapping considerably increases the dwell time of a subset of particles in the turbulent region, which results in significant nonthermal particle acceleration. The direct observation of strong turbulence that is enabled by magnetic reconnection with nonthermal particle acceleration has far-reaching implications, since turbulence in plasmas is pervasive and may occupy significant volumes of the interstellar medium and intergalactic space. For example, strong turbulence from magnetic field annihilation in the supernova nebulae may dominate large volumes. As such, this observed energization process could plausibly contribute to the supply and development of the cosmic-ray spectrum.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)154-167
Number of pages13
JournalThe Astrophysical Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 4 Aug 2020


Dive into the research topics of 'Observations of Particle Acceleration in Magnetic Reconnection–driven Turbulence'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this