Fast Magnetic Reconnection and Spontaneous Stochasticity

Type Journal Article
Names Gregory L. Eyink, A. Lazarian, E. T. Vishniac
Publication The Astrophysical Journal
Volume 743
Issue 1
Pages 51
Date December 1, 2011
Library Catalog NASA ADS
Abstract Magnetic field lines in astrophysical plasmas are expected to be frozen-in at scales larger than the ion gyroradius. The rapid reconnection of magnetic-flux structures with dimensions vastly larger than the gyroradius requires a breakdown in the standard Alfvén flux-freezing law. We attribute this breakdown to ubiquitous MHD plasma turbulence with power-law scaling ranges of velocity and magnetic energy spectra. Lagrangian particle trajectories in such environments become "spontaneously stochastic," so that infinitely many magnetic field lines are advected to each point and must be averaged to obtain the resultant magnetic field. The relative distance between initial magnetic field lines which arrive at the same final point depends upon the properties of two-particle turbulent dispersion. We develop predictions based on the phenomenological Goldreich & Sridhar theory of strong MHD turbulence and on weak MHD turbulence theory. We recover the predictions of the Lazarian & Vishniac theory for the reconnection rate of large-scale magnetic structures. Lazarian & Vishniac also invoked "spontaneous stochasticity," but of the field lines rather than of the Lagrangian trajectories. More recent theories of fast magnetic reconnection appeal to microscopic plasma processes that lead to additional terms in the generalized Ohm's law, such as the collisionless Hall term. We estimate quantitatively the effect of such processes on the inertial-range turbulence dynamics and find them to be negligible in most astrophysical environments. For example, the predictions of the Lazarian & Vishniac theory are unchanged in Hall MHD turbulence with an extended inertial range, whenever the ion skin depth δ i is much smaller than the turbulent integral length or injection-scale Li .
Tags Magnetic reconnection, Magnetohydrodynamics: MHD, turbulence
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