Experimental Investigation of the Neutral sheet Profile During Magnetic Reconnection Page: 2 of 20
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Magnetic reconnection,1 the topological rearrangement of magnetic field lines, is a basic
plasma phenomena of wide-ranging importance. It plays a major role in the evolution
of solar flares2 and in the interaction of the solar wind with the earth's magnetosphere,3
and it often plays a dominant role in determining the confinement characteristics of high-
temperature fusion plasmas.4 Recent detailed data from laboratory plasma experiments,
satellite observations, theoretical analysis, and computer simulations have advanced the
understanding of magnetic reconnection both in space and laboratory plasmas.
The reconnection layer, often called the neutral sheet, is a focal point of reconnection re-
search since magnetohydrodynamics (MHD) breaks down locally in the layer, while globally,
the plasma has large Lundquist number and is approximated well by ideal MHD. Precise
measurements of the neutral sheet profile can provide important clues to help understand
the physical mechanisms of reconnection. Thanks to significant progress in data acquisition
technology in the past two decades, the detailed magnetic field structure of the neutral sheet
has been measured in laboratory plasmas. Extensive data have been accumulated in highly
conductive MHD plasmas with large Lundquist numbers S = 10-1000, where S is the ratio
of the magnetic diffusion time to the Alfven transit time.
MRX5 (Magnetic Reconnection Experiment) was built in 1995 at the Princeton Plasma
Physics Laboratory for the comprehensive study of magnetic reconnection in a controlled
environment. It has generated much fundamental data on magnetic reconnection in MHD
plasmas. Our experiment has already addressed important issues related to the reconnection
layer. Based on detailed magnetic field measurements by high-resolution magnetic probes,
evolution of poloidal flux contours were deduced, demonstrating important two-dimensional
(2-D) features of magnetic reconnection.s The reconnection rate was also seen to agree with
a generalized Sweet-Parker model.78
Generally, analysis of magnetic reconnection is divided into local and global issues. In
local treatments, the reconnection rate is determined by local plasma parameters in the
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Trintchouk, F.; Ji, H.; Yamada, M.; Kulsrud, R.; Hsu, S. & Carter, T. Experimental Investigation of the Neutral sheet Profile During Magnetic Reconnection, report, November 1, 1999; Princeton, New Jersey. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc627759/m1/2/: accessed December 15, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.