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<I>In situ</I> evidence for the structure of the magnetic null in a 3D reconnection event in the Earth's magnetotail

In situ evidence for the structure of the magnetic null in a 3D reconnection event in the Earth's magnetotail

Publication date: 02 June 2006

Authors: Xiao, C. J. et al.

Journal: Nature Physics
Volume: 2
Issue: 7
Page: 478-483
Year: 2006

Copyright: Nature Publishing Group

Magnetic reconnection is one of the most important processes in astrophysical, space and laboratory plasmas. Identifying the structure around the point at which the magnetic field lines break and subsequently reform, known as the magnetic null point, is crucial to improving our understanding of reconnection. But owing to the inherently three-dimensional nature of this process, magnetic nulls are only detectable through measurements obtained simultaneously from at least four points in space. Using data collected by the four spacecraft of the Cluster constellation as they traversed a diffusion region in the Earth's magnetotail on 15 September 2001, we report here the first in situ evidence for the structure of an isolated magnetic null. The results indicate that it has a positive-spiral structure whose spatial extent is of the same order as the local ion inertial length scale, suggesting that the Hall effect could play an important role in 3D reconnection dynamics.

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