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Physics Of Plasmas


Laboratory magnetic reconnection experiments have been performed for nearly 20 years. Elegant experiments by Stenzel and Gekelman [R. L. Stenzel and W. Gekelman, Phys. Rev. Lett. 42, 1055 (1979); W. Gekelman and R. L. Stenzel, Phys. Rev. Lett. 54, 2414 (1985)] focused on the measurement of field quantities with a single movable probe in a highly reproducible plasma. Observations included a very thin current sheet (on the order of c/ωpe), accelerated electrons, and whistler waves. The argon ions were unmagnetized in these experiments. Recent magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) experiments by Yamada and Ono have used merging plasmoids [M. Yamada, Y. Ono, A. Hayakawa, M. Katsurai, and F. W. Perkins, Phys. Rev. Lett. 65, 721 (1990); Y. Ono, M. Yamada, T. Akao, T. Tajima, and R. Matsumoto, Phys. Rev. Lett. 76, 3328 (1996)] and have measured three dimensional effects and ion acceleration. We have observed correlations between magnetic reconnection and energetic ion flow events with merging force free spheromaks at the Swarthmore Spheromak Experiment (SSX) [T. W. Kornack, P. K. Sollins, and M. R. Brown, Phys. Rev. E 58, R36 (1998)]. The reconnection layer is measured with linear and two dimensional probe arrays and ion flow is directly measured with a retarding grid energy analyzer. Flow has been measured both in the plane of the reconnection layer and out of the plane. The outflow velocity is nearly Alfvénic in the reconnection plane and the scale of the magnetic structures is consistent with collisionless reconnection theories (on the order of c/ωpi). Results from the two dimensional array show the formation of magnetic islands correlated with super-Alfvénic ions accelerated normal to the layer.


Magnetic reconnection, Spheromaks, Acceleration measurement, Magnetohydrodynamics, Laboratory procedures


This work is freely available courtesy of the American Astronomical Society and IOP Publishing.

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