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Magnetopause stability threshold for patchy reconnection

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This review is devoted to the problem of the internal fine structure of the Earth's magnetopause. A number of theoretical and experimental papers dealing with this subject is discussed from a unified viewpoint. The Vlasov kinetic approach is used to study the stability of magnetopause magnetic surfaces that can be destructed by the growth and overlapping of magnetic islands. The stochastic wandering of magnetic field lines between the destructed surfaces can result in magnetic percolation, i.e. the appearance of a topological connection of interplanetary and geomagnetic field lines. Such a process may be considered as a mechanism of the macroscopic (but spatially localized) reconnection. We discuss this in relation with the phenomena of spontaneous ‘patchy’ reconnection, recently observed at ISEE satellites and now known as flux transfer events.

Drift tearing mode, which is responsible for the growth of magnetic islands can be stabilized due to its coupling with ion sound waves, and the process of percolation will be interrupted if even a thin region with smooth stable magnetic surfaces exists within the magnetopause. Accordingly, we obtain a magnetopause stability threshold for localized reconnection. It is represented in the form of dependence of marginal dimensionless thickness of the magnetopause on the angle of magnetic field rotation within it.

Further, we discuss the possible role of lower hybrid turbulence permanently observed within the. magnetopause and speeding up the process of reconnection. Nonlinear calculations supporting the developed model are given in the appendices. We consider briefly the motion of reconnecting flux tubes and evaluate the time necessary for the accomplishment of percolation. The calculations show that the appearance of reconnection ‘patchies’ at the dayside magnetopause cannot occur too far from the stagnation region. The latter agrees with experimental indications on the most probable site of the formation of flux transfer events. In the concluding part of the review we discuss the necessary limitations on the theory, possible lines of its future advance and comparison with the experimental data.

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Galeev, A.A., Kuznetsova, M.M. & Zeleny, L.M. Magnetopause stability threshold for patchy reconnection. Space Sci Rev 44, 1–41 (1986). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00227227

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  • Flux Tube
  • Magnetic Surface
  • Magnetic Island
  • Magnetic Field Rotation
  • Geomagnetic Field Line