Articles | Volume 34, issue 3
Regular paper
24 Mar 2016
Regular paper |  | 24 Mar 2016

Spatial dimensions of the electron diffusion region in anti-parallel magnetic reconnection

Takuma Nakamura, Rumi Nakamura, and Hiroshi Haseagwa

Abstract. Spatial dimensions of the detailed structures of the electron diffusion region in anti-parallel magnetic reconnection were analyzed based on two-dimensional fully kinetic particle-in-cell simulations. The electron diffusion region in this study is defined as the region where the positive reconnection electric field is sustained by the electron inertial and non-gyrotropic pressure components. Past kinetic studies demonstrated that the dimensions of the whole electron diffusion region and the inner non-gyrotropic region are scaled by the electron inertial length de and the width of the electron meandering motion, respectively. In this study, we successfully obtained more precise scalings of the dimensions of these two regions than the previous studies by performing simulations with sufficiently small grid spacing (1∕16–1∕8 de) and a sufficient number of particles (800 particles cell−1 on average) under different conditions changing the ion-to-electron mass ratio, the background density and the electron βe (temperature). The obtained scalings are adequately supported by some theories considering spatial variations of field and plasma parameters within the diffusion region. In the reconnection inflow direction, the dimensions of both regions are proportional to de based on the background density. Both dimensions also depend on βe based on the background values, but the dependence in the inner region ( ∼ 0.375th power) is larger than the whole region (0.125th power) reflecting the orbits of meandering and accelerated electrons within the inner region. In the outflow direction, almost only the non-gyrotropic component sustains the positive reconnection electric field. The dimension of this single-scale diffusion region is proportional to the ion-electron hybrid inertial length (dide)1∕2 based on the background density and weakly depends on the background βe with the 0.25th power. These firm scalings allow us to predict observable dimensions in real space which are indeed in reasonable agreement with past in situ spacecraft observations in the Earth's magnetotail and have important implications for future observations with higher resolutions such as the NASA Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) mission.

Short summary
Magnetic reconnection is a key process in space and laboratory plasmas which transfers energies through the magnetic field topology change. The topology change in this process takes place in a small scale region called the electron diffusion region (EDR). In this paper, using high-resolution fully kinetic simulations, we successfully obtained the firm scaling laws of spatial dimensions of the EDR. The obtained scalings allow us to precisely predict observable dimensions of the EDR in real space.