, Volume 172, Issue 1-4, pp 271-282
Date: 25 Mar 2011

Emerging Parameter Space Map of Magnetic Reconnection in Collisional and Kinetic Regimes

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Abstract

In large-scale systems of interest to solar physics, there is growing evidence that magnetic reconnection involves the formation of extended current sheets which are unstable to plasmoids (secondary magnetic islands). Recent results suggest that plasmoids may play a critical role in the evolution of reconnection, and have raised fundamental questions regarding the applicability of resistive MHD to various regimes. In collisional plasmas, where the thickness of all resistive layers remain larger than the ion gyroradius, simulations results indicate that plasmoids permit reconnection to proceed much faster than the slow Sweet-Parker scaling. However, it appears these rates are still a factor of ∼10× slower than observed in kinetic regimes, where the diffusion region current sheet falls below the ion gyroradius and additional physics beyond MHD becomes crucially important. Over a broad range of interesting parameters, the formation of plasmoids may naturally induce a transition into these kinetic regimes. New insights into this scenario have emerged in recent years based on a combination of linear theory, fluid simulations and fully kinetic simulations which retain a Fokker-Planck collision operator to allow a rigorous treatment of Coulomb collisions as the reconnection electric field exceeds the runaway limit. Here, we present some new results from this approach for guide field reconnection. Based upon these results, a parameter space map is constructed that summarizes the present understanding of how reconnection proceeds in various regimes.