, Volume 160, Issue 1-4, pp 25-43,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 12 Aug 2011

Understanding the Dynamics of Magnetic Reconnection Layer


We review progress in understanding the dynamics of a typical magnetic reconnection layer by describing the historical development of theory and the recent findings and discoveries in space and laboratory plasmas. The emphasis is on the dynamics of electrons moving with respect to ions in the collision-free neutral sheet. We make a detailed comparison of experimental results from the Magnetic Reconnection Experiment (MRX) with those from theory and numerical simulations. The collaboration between space and laboratory scientists on reconnection research has recently reached a point where we can compare measurements of the reconnection layer profile in detail with support from numerical simulations. In spite of the large difference in physical scales by 106–107, we find remarkable commonalities in the features of the magnetic reconnection region in laboratory and magnetospheric plasmas. A newly planned laboratory experiment, in which a current sheet is swept in the way a magnetosphere current sheet crosses space satellites, is also described.