Properties of the Turbulence Associated with Electron-only Magnetic Reconnection in Earth’s Magnetosheath

J. E. Stawarz*, Jonathan P. Eastwood, T. D. Phan, I. L. Gingell, M. A. Shay, J. L. Burch, Robert E. Ergun, Barbara L. Giles, D. J. Gershman, O. Le Contel, P.-A. Lindqvist, Christopher T. Russell, R. J. Strangeway, R. B. Torbert, M. R. Argall, D. Fischer, W. Magnes, Luca Franci

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

80 Citations (Scopus)


Turbulent plasmas generate intense current structures, which have long been suggested as magnetic reconnection sites. Recent Magnetospheric Multiscale observations in Earth's magnetosheath revealed a novel form of reconnection where the dynamics only couple to electrons, without ion involvement. It was suggested that such dynamics were driven by magnetosheath turbulence. In this study, the fluctuations are examined to determine the properties of the turbulence and if a signature of reconnection is present in the turbulence statistics. The study reveals statistical properties consistent with plasma turbulence with a correlation length of ∼10 ion inertial lengths. When reconnection is more prevalent, a steepening of the magnetic spectrum occurs at the length scale of the reconnecting current sheets. The statistics of intense currents suggest the prevalence of electron-scale current sheets favorable for electron reconnection. The results support the hypothesis that electron reconnection is driven by turbulence and highlight diagnostics that may provide insight into reconnection in other turbulent plasmas.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberL37
Number of pages7
JournalAstrophysical Journal Letters
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 4 Jun 2019
Externally publishedYes

Cite this