Turbulent reconnection and its implications Academic Article uri icon

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abstract

  • Magnetic reconnection is a process of magnetic field topology change, which is one of the most fundamental processes happening in magnetized plasmas. In most astrophysical environments, the Reynolds numbers corresponding to plasma flows are large and therefore the transition to turbulence is inevitable. This turbulence, which can be pre-existing or driven by magnetic reconnection itself, must be taken into account for any theory of magnetic reconnection that attempts to describe the process in the aforementioned environments. This necessity is obvious as three-dimensional high-resolution numerical simulations show the transition to the turbulence state of initially laminar reconnecting magnetic fields. We discuss ideas of how turbulence can modify reconnection with the focus on the Lazarian & Vishniac (Lazarian & Vishniac 1999 Astrophys. J. 517, 700-718 (doi:10.1086/307233)) reconnection model. We present numerical evidence supporting the model and demonstrate that it is closely connected to the experimentally proven concept of Richardson dispersion/diffusion as well as to more recent advances in understanding of the Lagrangian dynamics of magnetized fluids. We point out that the generalized Ohm's law that accounts for turbulent motion predicts the subdominance of the microphysical plasma effects for reconnection for realistically turbulent media. We show that one of the most dramatic consequences of turbulence is the violation of the generally accepted notion of magnetic flux freezing. This notion is a cornerstone of most theories dealing with magnetized plasmas, and therefore its change induces fundamental shifts in accepted paradigms, for instance, turbulent reconnection entails reconnection diffusion process that is essential for understanding star formation. We argue that at sufficiently high Reynolds numbers the process of tearing reconnection should transfer to turbulent reconnection. We discuss flares that are predicted by turbulent reconnection and relate this process to solar flares and γ-ray bursts. With reference to experiments, we analyse solar observations in situ as measurements in the solar wind or heliospheric current sheet and show the correspondence of data with turbulent reconnection predictions. Finally, we discuss first-order Fermi acceleration of particles that is a natural consequence of the turbulent reconnection.

publication date

  • May 13, 2015