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Structure of the Magnetic Reconnection Diffusion Region from Four-Spacecraft Observations

Abstract : Magnetic reconnection leads to energy conversion in large volumes in space but is initiated in small diffusion regions. Because of the small sizes of the diffusion regions, their crossings by spacecraft are rare. We report four-spacecraft observations of a diffusion region encounter at the Earth's magnetopause that allow us to reliably distinguish spatial from temporal features. We find that the diffusion region is stable on ion time and length scales in agreement with numerical simulations. The electric field normal to the current sheet is balanced by the Hall term in the generalized Ohm's law, E(n)similar tojxB/ne.(n) over cap, thus establishing that Hall physics is dominating inside the diffusion region. The reconnection rate is fast, similar to0.1. We show that strong parallel currents flow along the separatrices; they are correlated with observations of high-frequency Langmuir/upper hybrid waves.
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A. Vaivads, Y. Khotyaintsev, M. André, A. Retinò, S. Buchert, et al.. Structure of the Magnetic Reconnection Diffusion Region from Four-Spacecraft Observations. Physical Review Letters, American Physical Society, 2004, 93 (10), ⟨10.1103/PhysRevLett.93.105001⟩. ⟨insu-02873931⟩

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