Magnetic energy determines electron bulk heating



When magnetic field lines interact at the magnetopause—the boundary between the solar magnetic field and the Earth's magnetic field—a process known as magnetic reconnection causes magnetic energy to be converted into kinetic energy and heat. Magnetic reconnection is a collisionless process, and its dynamics are still not fully understood. Past studies of reconnection have produced conflicting findings as to whether, and, if so, how much, reconnection heats electrons. Although reconnection has been found to heat electrons to 10 million kelvins in the Earth's magnetotail, it does not appear to heat electrons in the solar wind.