Description: This is the final report of a three-year, Laboratory-Directed Research and Development (LDRD) project at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). Magnetic reconnection produces fundamental changes in the magnetic field topology of plasmas and leads ultimately to substantial plasma heating and acceleration. The transfer of stored magnetic field energy to the plasma occurs primarily at thin conversion layers that extend outward from the reconnection site. We performed a comparative study of the structure and nature of these conversion layers as observed during reconnection at Earth`s magnetopause and in the geomagnetic tail. Our research utilized plasma and magnetic field data from the Earth-orbiting ISEE satellites during crossings of the conversion layers at the magnetopause and in the geomagnetic tail, as well as data obtained during a long-duration balloon flight in Antarctica and simultaneously from satellites in geosynchronous orbit. We have found that the reconnection layer at the magnetopause usually does not contain a slow mode shock, contrary to earlier theoretical expectations. Through a coordinated analysis of data obtained from balloon altitudes and at geosynchronous orbit, we obtained evidence that reconnection can occur simultaneously in both hemispheres at the magnetopause above the polar caps. The final year of our study was oriented primarily towards the question of determining the magnetic topology of disturbances in the solar wind associated with coronal mass ejections (CMEs) and understanding how that topology is affected by magnetic reconnection occurring near the Sun.
Date: April 1, 1996
Creator: Gosling, J.; Feldman, W. & Walthour, D.
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