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Annales Geophysicae An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/angeo-2019-2
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/angeo-2019-2
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Regular paper 21 Jan 2019

Regular paper | 21 Jan 2019

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This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Annales Geophysicae (ANGEO).

Quasi-separatrix Layers Induced by Ballooning Instability in Near-Earth Magnetotail

Ping Zhu1,2,3, Zechen Wang1, Jun Chen4, Xingting Yan1, and Rui Liu4,5 Ping Zhu et al.
  • 1CAS Key Laboratory of Geospace Environment, Department of Engineering and Applied Physics, University of Science and Technology of China, Hefei, Anhui, China
  • 2KTX Laboratory, Department of Engineering and Applied Physics, University of Science and Technology of China, Hefei, Anhui, China
  • 3Department of Engineering Physics, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin, USA
  • 4CAS Key Laboratory of Geospace Environment, Department of Geophysics and Planetary Sciences, University of Science and Technology of China, Hefei, Anhui, China
  • 5CAS Center for Excellence in Comparative Planetology, Hefei, Anhui, China

Abstract. Magnetic reconnection processes in the near-Earth magnetotail can be highly 3-dimensional (3D) in geometry and dynamics, even though the magnetotail configuration itself is nearly two dimensional due to the symmetry in the dusk-dawn direction. Such reconnection processes can be induced by the 3D dynamics of nonlinear ballooning instability. In this work, we explore the global 3D geometry of the reconnection process induced by ballooning instability in the near-Earth magnetotail by examining the distribution of quasi-separatrix layers associated with plasmoid formation in the entire 3D domain of magnetotail configuration, using an algorithm previously developed in context of solar physics. The 3D distribution of quasi-separatrix layers (QSLs) as well as their evolution directly follows the plasmoid formation during the nonlinear development of ballooning instability in both time and space. Such a close correlation demonstrates a strong coupling between the ballooning and the corresponding reconnection processes. It further confirms the intrinsic 3D nature of the ballooning-induced plasmoid formation and reconnection processes, in both geometry and dynamics. In addition, the reconstruction of the 3D QSL geometry may provide an alternative means for identifying the location and timing of 3D reconnection sites in magnetotail from both numerical simulations and satellite observations.

Ping Zhu et al.
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Latest update: 15 Feb 2019
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Short summary
Our research explores a new method for identifying where and when the magnetic field lines in Earth's magnetotail may change its topology through the reconnection process, during which a sudden release of magnetic energy can lead to the brightening of aurora, a process called substorm. Traditionally, the magnetic reconnection was often interpreted using a two-dimensional model, which however does not capture the intrinsically three-dimensional nature of reconnection physics, as we have revealed.
Our research explores a new method for identifying where and when the magnetic field lines in...
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