SPACEOBS kickoff

SPACEOBS : a space incubator funded by University Paris-Saclay started this January. The first part of the project is for 2017. Funding is 700k€.

SPACEOBS will develop inovative activities in four essential directions:

  • MultiScale multi-spacecraft data analysis (WP1)
  • Coupling simulations with observations (WP2)
  • New generation instrument design (WP3)
  • Public outreach and teaching (WP4)

I’m co-leading the work package 1

Orientation of the X-line in asymmetric magnetic reconnection

Orientation of the X-line in asymmetric magnetic reconnection

Journal of Plasma Physics, Volume 82, Issue 4, article id. 535820401, 15 pp.DOI : http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0022377816000647

Aunai, N.; Hesse, M.; Lavraud, B.; Dargent, J.; Smets, R.

Magnetic reconnection can occur in current sheets separating magnetic fields sheared by any angle and of arbitrarily different amplitudes. In such asymmetric and non-coplanar systems, it is not yet understood what the orientation of the X-line will be. Studying how this orientation is determined locally by the reconnection process is important to understand systems such as the Earth magnetopause, where reconnection occurs in regions with large differences in upstream plasma and field properties. This study aims at determining what the local X-line orientation is for different upstream magnetic shear angles in an asymmetric set-up relevant to the Earth’s magnetopause. We use two-dimensional hybrid simulations and vary the simulation plane orientation with regard to the fixed magnetic field profile and search for the plane maximizing the reconnection rate. We find that the plane defined by the bisector of upstream fields maximizes the reconnection rate and this appears not to depend on the magnetic shear angle, domain size or upstream plasma and asymmetries.

Cold ion heating at the dayside magnetopause during magnetic reconnection

Cold ion heating at the dayside magnetopause during magnetic reconnection

Geophysical Research Letters, Volume 43, Issue 1, pp. 58-66 DOI : http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/2015GL067187

Toledo-Redondo, S.; André, M.; Vaivads, A.; Khotyaintsev, Yu. V.; Lavraud, B.; Graham, D. B.; Divin, A.; Aunai, N.

Cold ions of ionospheric origin are known to be present in the magnetospheric side of the Earth’s magnetopause. They can be very abundant, with densities up to 100 cm-3. These cold ions can mass load the magnetosphere, changing global parameters of magnetic reconnection, like the Alfvén speed or the reconnection rate. In addition they introduce a new length scale related to their gyroradius and kinetic effects which must be accounted for. We report in situ observations of cold ion heating in the separatrix owing to time and space fluctuations of the electric field. When this occurs, the cold ions are preheated before crossing the Hall electric field barrier. However, when this mechanism is not present cold ions can be observed well inside the reconnection exhaust. Our observations suggest that the perpendicular cold ion heating is stronger close to the X line owing to waves and electric field gradients linked to the reconnection process.

Asymmetric kinetic equilibria: Generalization of the BAS model for rotating magnetic profile and non-zero electric field

Asymmetric kinetic equilibria: Generalization of the BAS model for rotating magnetic profile and non-zero electric field

Published in Physics of Plasmas DOI : http://dx.doi.org/10.1063/1.4930210

Nicolas Dorville, Gérard Belmont, Nicolas Aunai, Jérémy Dargent and Laurence Rezeau

Finding kinetic equilibria for non-collisional/collisionless tangential current layers is a key issue as well for their theoretical modeling as for our understanding of the processes that disturb them, such as tearing or Kelvin Helmholtz instabilities. The famous Harris equilibrium [E. Harris, Il Nuovo Cimento Ser. 10 23, 115–121 (1962)] assumes drifting Maxwellian distributions for ions and electrons, with constant temperatures and flow velocities; these assumptions lead to symmetric layers surrounded by vacuum. This strongly particular kind of layer is not suited for the general case: asymmetric boundaries between two media with different plasmas and different magnetic fields. The standard method for constructing more general kinetic equilibria consists in using Jeans theorem, which says that any function depending only on the Hamiltonian constants of motion is a solution to the steady Vlasov equation [P. J. Channell, Phys. Fluids (1958–1988) 19, 1541 (1976); M. Roth et al., Space Sci. Rev. 76, 251–317 (1996); and F. Mottez, Phys. Plasmas 10, 1541–1545 (2003)]. The inverse implication is however not true: when using the motion invariants as variables instead of the velocity components, the general stationary particle distributions keep on depending explicitly of the position, in addition to the implicit dependence introduced by these invariants. The standard approach therefore strongly restricts the class of solutions to the problem and probably does not select the most physically reasonable. The BAS (Belmont-Aunai-Smets) model [G. Belmont et al., Phys. Plasmas 19, 022108 (2012)] used for the first time the concept of particle accessibility to find new solutions: considering the case of a coplanar-antiparallel magnetic field configuration without electric field, asymmetric solutions could be found while the standard method can only lead to symmetric ones. These solutions were validated in a hybrid simulation [N. Aunai et al., Phys. Plasmas (1994-present) 20, 110702 (2013)], and more recently in a fully kinetic simulation as well [J. Dargent and N. Aunai, Phys. Plasmas (submitted)]. Nevertheless, in most asymmetric layers like the terrestrial magnetopause, one would indeed expect a magnetic field rotation from one direction to another without going through zero [J. Berchem and C. T. Russell, J. Geophys. Res. 87, 8139–8148 (1982)], and a non-zero normal electric field. In this paper, we propose the corresponding generalization: in the model presented, the profiles can be freely imposed for the magnetic field rotation (although restricted to a 180 rotation hitherto) and for the normal electric field. As it was done previously, the equilibrium is tested with a hybrid simulation.

On the electron diffusion region in planar, asymmetric, systems

On the electron diffusion region in planar, asymmetric, systems

Published in Geophysical Research Letters DOI : http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/2014GL061586

Hesse, Michael; Aunai, Nicolas; Sibeck, David; Birn, Joachim

simulations and analytical theory are employed to study the electron diffusion region in asymmetric reconnection, which is taking place in planar configurations without a guide field. The analysis presented here focuses on the nature of the local reconnection electric field and on differences from symmetric configurations. Further emphasis is on the complex structure of the electron distribution in the diffusion region, which is generated by the mixing of particles from different sources. We find that the electric field component that is directly responsible for flux transport is provided not by electron pressure-based, “quasi-viscous,” terms but by inertial terms. The quasi-viscous component is shown to be critical in that it is necessary to sustain the required overall electric field pattern in the immediate neighborhood of the reconnection X line.

Theory and Modeling for the Magnetospheric Multiscale Mission

Theory and Modeling for the Magnetospheric Multiscale Mission

Published in Space Science Reviews DOI : 10.1007/s11214-014-0078-y

M. Hesse, N. Aunai, J. Birn, P. Cassak, R. E. Denton, J. F. Drake, T. Gombosi, M. Hoshino, W. Matthaeus, D. Sibeck, S. Zenitani

The Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) mission will provide measurement capabilities, which will exceed those of earlier and even contemporary missions by orders of magnitude. MMS will, for the first time, be able to measure directly and with sufficient resolution key features of the magnetic reconnection process, down to the critical electron scales, which need to be resolved to understand how reconnection works. Owing to the complexity and extremely high spatial resolution required, no prior measurements exist, which could be employed to guide the definition of measurement requirements, and consequently set essential parameters for mission planning and execution. Insight into expected details of the reconnection process could hence only been obtained from theory and modern kinetic modeling. This situation was recognized early on by MMS leadership, which supported the formation of a fully integrated Theory and Modeling Team (TMT). The TMT participated in all aspects of mission planning, from the proposal stage to individual aspects of instrument performance characteristics. It provided and continues to provide to the mission the latest insights regarding the kinetic physics of magnetic reconnection, as well as associated particle acceleration and turbulence, assuring that, to the best of modern knowledge, the mission is prepared to resolve the inner workings of the magnetic reconnection process. The present paper provides a summary of key recent results or reconnection research by TMT members.

On the relationship between quadrupolar magnetic field and collisionless reconnection

On the relationship between quadrupolar magnetic field and collisionless reconnection

Published in Physics of Plasmas DOI : http://dx.doi.org/10.1063/1.4885097

R. Smets, N. Aunai, G. Belmont, C. Boniface and J. Fuchs

Using hybrid simulations, we investigate the onset of fast reconnection between two cylindrical magnetic shells initially close to each other. This initial state mimics the plasma structure in High Energy Density Plasmas induced by a laser-target interaction and the associated self-generated magnetic field. We clearly observe that the classical quadrupolar structure of the out-of-plane magnetic field appears prior to the reconnection onset. Furthermore, a parametric study reveals that, with a non-coplanar initial magnetic topology, the reconnection onset is delayed and possibly suppressed. The relation between the out-of-plane magnetic field and the out-of-plane electric field is discussed.

BV technique for investigating 1-D interfaces

BV technique for investigating 1-D interfaces

Published in Journal of Geophysical Research

Dorville Nicolas, Belmont Gerard, Rezeau Laurence, Aunai Nicolas Retinò, Alessandro

To investigate the internal structure of the magnetopause with spacecraft data, it is crucial to be able to determine its normal direction and to convert the measured time series into spatial profiles. We propose here a new single-spacecraft method, called the BV method, to reach these two objectives. Its name indicates that the method uses a combination of the magnetic field (B) and velocity (V) data. The method is tested on simulation and on Cluster data, and a short overview of the possible products is given. We discuss its assumptions and show that it can bring a valuable improvement with respect to previous methods.

The relation between reconnected flux, the parallel electric field, and the reconnection rate in a three-dimensional kinetic simulation of magnetic reconnection

The relation between reconnected flux, the parallel electric field, and the reconnection rate in a three-dimensional kinetic simulation of magnetic reconnection

Published in Physics of Plasmas

D.E. Wendel, D.K. Olson, M. Hesse, N. Aunai, M. Kuznetsova, H. Karimabadi, W. Daughton and M. L. Adrian

We investigate the distribution of parallel electric fields and their relationship to the location and rate of magnetic reconnection in a large particle-in-cell simulation of 3D turbulent magnetic reconnection with open boundary conditions. The simulation’s guide field geometry inhibits the formation of simple topological features such as null points. Therefore, we derive the location of potential changes in magnetic connectivity by finding the field lines that experience a large relative change between their endpoints, i.e., the quasi-separatrix layer. We find a good correspondence between the locus of changes in magnetic connectivity or the quasi-separatrix layer and the map of large gradients in the integrated parallel electric field (or quasi-potential). Furthermore, we investigate the distribution of the parallel electric field along the reconnecting field lines. We find the reconnection rate is controlled by only the low-amplitude, zeroth and first–order trends in the parallel electric field while the contribution from fluctuations of the parallel electric field, such as electron holes, is negligible. The results impact the determination of reconnection sites and reconnection rates in models and in situ spacecraft observations of 3D turbulent reconnection. It is difficult through direct observation to isolate the loci of the reconnection parallel electric field amidst the large amplitude fluctuations. However, we demonstrate that a positive slope of the running sum of the parallel electric field along the field line as a function of field line length indicates where reconnection is occurring along the field line.

Sujets de stage de Master 2 pour 2014

Nous proposons deux sujets de stage de Master 2 pour le printemps 2014. Ces deux sujets ont pour thématique la physique des plasmas astrophysiques.

  • stage 1 : La nongyrotropie électronique permet-elle d’identifier un site de reconnexion ?
  • stage 2 : Equilibre cinétique : quelle condition initiale pour la reconnexion magnétique ?

Les deux stages ont une forte composante “simulation numérique”, le second demande un plus gros effort de programmation (fortran et C) car il requiert de modifier d’avantage le code de simulation. Il est peut-être également un peu plus théorique sur le plan conceptuel que le second stage. Le premier stage en revanche comporte également un volet observationnel que le second n’a pas. Les deux stages sont des sujets actuels de recherche, ils sont suffisament ciblés pour garantir un résultat (pas d’inconnue sur le plan technique).

Note importante : Une thèse au sein de l’équipe est possible sur les mêmes thématiques, avec un financement ANR déjà acquis.