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The onset of electron-only reconnection

  • Alfred Mallet (a1)


Motivated by recent observations of ‘electron-only’ magnetic reconnection, without an ion-scale sheet or ion outflows, in both the Earth’s magnetosheath and in numerical simulations, we study the formation and reconnection of electron-scale current sheets at low plasma $\unicode[STIX]{x1D6FD}$ . We first show that ideal sheets collapse to thicknesses much smaller than the ion scales, by deriving an appropriate analogue of the Chapman–Kendall collapse solution. Second, we show that, in practice, reconnection onset happens in these collapsing sheets once they reach a critical aspect ratio, because the tearing instability then becomes faster than their collapse time scale. We show that this can happen for sheet thicknesses larger than the ion scale or at only a few times the electron scale, depending on plasma parameters and the aspect ratio of the collapsing structure, thereby unifying the usual picture of ion-coupled reconnection and the new regime of electron-only reconnection. We derive relationships between plasma $\unicode[STIX]{x1D6FD}$ , ion-to-electron temperature ratio, the aspect ratio, electron outflow velocity and the final thickness of the sheets, and thus determine under what circumstances electron-scale sheets form and reconnect.

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The onset of electron-only reconnection

  • Alfred Mallet (a1)


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