Island surfing mechanism of electron acceleration during magnetic reconnection
Publication date: 21 Aug 2010
Authors: Oka, M. et al.
Journal: Journal of Geophysical Research
Copyright: American Geophysical UnionOne of the key unresolved problems in the study of space plasmas is to explain the production of energetic electrons as magnetic field lines "reconnect" and release energy in an explosive manner. Recent observations suggest possible roles played by small-scale magnetic islands in the reconnection region, but their precise roles and the exact mechanism of electron energization have remained unclear. Here we show from two-dimensional particle-in-cell simulations that secondary islands generated in the reconnection region indeed produce energetic electrons. We found that when electrons are trapped inside the islands, they are energized continuously by the reconnection electric field prevalent in the reconnection diffusion region. Applications to observations in the Earth's magnetotail are briefly discussed.