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Published September 1998 | Published
Journal Article Open

Collisionless reconnection using Alfvén wave radiation resistance


Patchy magnetic reconnection involves transient field-aligned current filaments. The spatial localization, transient time-dependence, and orientation of these current filaments means they must radiate torsional Alfvén waves. Radiation of wave energy does not come for free—it must load the current which acts as the radiative source. This loading (radiation resistance) is proposed as the energy sink required for collisionless magnetic reconnection to proceed. Radiation resistance for both inertial and kinetic Alfvén waves is calculated and, for highly collisionless plasmas, is shown to exceed by a substantial factor both Spitzer resistivity and the effective resistance due to the direct acceleration of electrons (inertial loading). The radiation resistivity is shown to provide the magnetic field diffusivity required for magnetic fields to diffuse across the assumed width of the current filament on the time scale of the reconnection. It is also shown that Landau damping of the radiated waves results in the generation of energetic, field-aligned particles: in the beta << me/mi regime the energetic particles are electrons while in the me/mi << beta << 1 regime, the energetic particles are ions.

Additional Information

© 1998 American Institute of Physics. (Received 24 November 1997; accepted 8 June 1998) Discussions with D. Rutledge regarding return currents in free-space (vacuum) antennas are gratefully acknowledged. This work has been supported by the National Science Foundation.

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