Indeterminacy and instability in Petschek reconnection
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We explain two puzzling aspects of Petschek's model for fast reconnection. One is its failure to occur in plasma simulations with uniform resistivity. The other is its inability to provide anything more than an upper limit for the reconnection rate. We have found that previously published analytical solutions based on Petschek's model are structurally unstable if the electrical resistivity is uniform. The structural instability is associated with the presence of an essential singularity at the X-line that is unphysical. By requiring that such a singularity does not exist, we obtain a formula that predicts a specific rate of reconnection. For uniform resistivity, reconnection can only occur at the slow, Sweet-Parker rate. For nonuniform resistivity, reconnection can occur at a much faster rate provided that the resistivity profile is not too flat near the X-line. If this condition is satisfied, then the scale length of the nonuniformity determines the reconnection rate.
Forbes , T G , Priest , E R , Seaton , D B & Litvinenko , Y E 2013 , ' Indeterminacy and instability in Petschek reconnection ' Physics of Plasmas , vol 20 , no. 5 , 052902 . DOI: 10.1063/1.4804337
Physics of Plasmas
© 2013 AIP Publishing LLC
This work was supported by NSF Grants ATM-0734032 and AGS-0962698, NASA Grants NNX08AG44G and NNX-10AC04G to the University of New Hampshire, and subcontract SVT-7702 from the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in support of their NASA Grants NNM07AA02C and NNM07AB07C. D. B. Seaton was supported by PRODEX Grant C90193 managed by the European Space Agency in collaboration with the Belgian Federal Science Policy Office, and by Grant FP7/2007-2013 from the European Commission's Seventh Framework Program under the agreement eHeroes (Project No. 284461). Additional support was provided by the Leverhulme Trust to E. R. Priest.
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