Rapid Reconnection

Outcome: A new model of reconnection has been successfully tested. The tested model is unique as it predicts fast reconnection for a wide variety of astrophysical parameters.

Transformative: The testing opens wide avenues of application of the original Lazarian & Vishniac model of reconnection to solving fundamental astrophysical problems from solar flares and star formation to gamma ray bursts.


Scientific problem: Magnetic reconnection is a fundamental process that governs how magnetic fields of different polarity interact and annihilate in plasma. This process is accepted to drive solar flares and speculated to affect many key astrophysical processes, but how magnetic reconnection can proceed fast in low resistivity cosmic plasma has been a long standing mystery.

Breakthrough: The paper provided successful numerical testing of the analytical quantitative predictions of the model of fast magnetic reconnection proposed by Lazarian & Vishniac 1999.  Unlike earlier discussed solutions of the problem the Lazarian & Vishniac provides a universal solution applicable to various astrophysical environments and has very broad impact from more accurate predictions within Space Weather project to explaining mysterious gamma ray bursts.

Potential benefits: Understanding magnetic reconnection allows to better predict the occurrence of solar flares accelerating copious amounts of energetic particles which destroy sensitive equipment of space satellites and causes a lot of economic damage. In terms of scientific impact, it allows to evaluate the degree to which sophisticated numerical modeling of astrophysical processes represent astrophysical reality and suggest new ways to improve numerical modeling. In addition, it predicts new important process (see items 2, 3, and 4). NSF role for funding this research as well as the NSF funded Centers for Supercomputing where the high end computations were performed was absolutely essential for the success.

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