Breakup of the electron current layer during 3-D collisionless magnetic reconnection



The structure of the electron current layer which forms in the dissipation region during magnetic reconnection in a collisionless plasma is explored by advancing the 3 - D electron magnetohydrodynamic (EMHD) equations. The current layer thins down below the electron skin depth c/ωpe and then breaks up into a fully turbulent distribution of swirling vortices, The turbulence is sufficiently strong that current is largely shunted into the plane of the magnetic reconnection. The results are consistent with the absense of electron scale current layers in satellite observations of the magnetosphere.