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On the maximum rate of magnetic-field reconnexion for Petschek's mechanism

  • B. Roberts† (a1) and E. R. Priest (a1)


The standard model for fast magnetic-field reconnexion (Petschek 1964) is qualitatively valid, despite numerous criticisms of its quantitative details. It contains four slow magnetohydrodynamic shock waves, which radiate from a central diffusion region. On the basis of Petschek's rough analysis, it is generally stated that, for large values of the magnetic Reynolds number Rm, reconnexion can occur at a rate no faster than a fraction π/(4 log Rm) of the Alfvén speed. Alternative models of the region outside that of diffusion have been put forward by Yeh & Axford (1970), whose general solutions Vasyliusnas (1975) proved invalid, and by Sonnerup (1970), whose model is mathematically useful, but of limited practical applicability. But their results suggest that reconnexion can occur at any rate whatsoever, with the diffusion-region dimensions responding accordingly. The present paper analyses the external region for Petschek's mechanism in greater detail than hitherto, with the object of deciding whether or not there is a maximum rate. The inclinations of the shock waves are calculated as a function of the fluid speed ve at large distances, which is taken as a measure of the reconnexion rate. It is found that, in agreement with Petschek's rough analysis, there is indeed an upper limit on the allowable rate of magnetic-field reconnexion. Its variation with Rm is calculated, and it is shown, for log10 Rm ≫1, to be approximately 20% of Petschek's value. Typical values are 0·10vAe for Rm = 10·2 and 0·02vAe for Rm = 106. (vAe is the Alfvén speed at large distances from the diffusion region.)



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On the maximum rate of magnetic-field reconnexion for Petschek's mechanism

  • B. Roberts† (a1) and E. R. Priest (a1)


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