Magnetic reconnection is a fundamental process in astrophysics which plays many different roles on the Sun. The classical theory of fast steady reconnection due to Sweet, Parker, Petschek and Sonnerup has been unified in a theory which possesses many new regimes that depend on the boundary conditions at large distances. For example, the flux pile-up regime possesses diverging flows, a long central diffusion region and a reconnection rate that is much larger than the Petschek value. Recent numerical experiments however, often possess three features that are not present in the earlier theoretical models, namely highly curved inflow field lines, separatrix jets and reversed current spikes, and so an attempt is described to include these features in a new theoretical model.
Several solar phenomena where reconnection is believed to be operating are described. Cancelling magnetic features in photospheric magnetograms are probably evidence of reconnection submergence. Most prominences are of inverse polarity and have upflows driven by reconnection below them. Coronal heating may well be due to reconnection in many small current sheets. In solar flares reconnection may be driven below an eruptiing active-region prominence and hence power the high-temperature flare loops and chromospheric ribbons.