Magnetic reconnection



A Chapman Conference on Magnetic Reconnection was held at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, October 3–7, 1983. More than 125 scientists, from more than a dozen countries, participated in the meeting, where 62 scientific papers were presented and discussed. This report briefly reviews material presented at the conference after first giving some background information on magnetic reconnection.

In many interesting systems of magnetized plasmas, magnetic field lines can be divided into several classes on the basis of their topological properties. One such system is sketched in Figure 1. This represents earth's magnetosphere, enveloped in the flowing solar wind which is threaded by the interplanetary magnetic field (IMF). In this system four classes of field lines are identified: (1) “closed” field lines connected to earth at both ends, (2) “interplanetary” field lines that do not connect to earth at all, (3) “open” field lines connected to earth at one end and to the interplanetary field at the other, and (4) “magnetic loops” that connect neither to earth nor to the interplanetary field. Surfaces called separatrices (heavy lines in Figure 1) separate the regions of different topology (i.e., 2 from 3, 1 from 3, and 1 from 4), and these intersect or close upon themselves along lines called X lines (indicated at A, B, and C in Figure 1).