Is magnetic reconnection intrinsically transient or steady-state? The Earth's magnetopause as a laboratory



In terms of universality, few physical processes rival magnetic reconnection. It is thought to be responsible for a wide variety of astronomical, solar, and laboratory plasma phenomena. In astrophysics, for example, transient emissions from compact X ray sources in binary systems are thought by some to originate in magnetic reconnection between a neutron star's magnetosphere and the surrounding accretion disk. In solar physics, it has long been thought that magnetic reconnection is at the root of the enormous energy release found in flares, and may also play an important role in causing coronal mass ejections. At the opposite extreme of size scales, laboratory plasma experiments show that magnetic reconnection is important in the stability, and instability, of reverse field pinches, spheromaks and tokamaks.