Indeterminacy and instability in Petschek reconnection

T.G. Forbes, E.R. Priest, D.B. Seaton, Y.E. Litvinenko

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9 Citations (Scopus)
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We explain two puzzling aspects of Petschek's model for fast reconnection. One is its failure to occur in plasma simulations with uniform resistivity. The other is its inability to provide anything more than an upper limit for the reconnection rate. We have found that previously published analytical solutions based on Petschek's model are structurally unstable if the electrical resistivity is uniform. The structural instability is associated with the presence of an essential singularity at the X-line that is unphysical. By requiring that such a singularity does not exist, we obtain a formula that predicts a specific rate of reconnection. For uniform resistivity, reconnection can only occur at the slow, Sweet-Parker rate. For nonuniform resistivity, reconnection can occur at a much faster rate provided that the resistivity profile is not too flat near the X-line. If this condition is satisfied, then the scale length of the nonuniformity determines the reconnection rate.
Original languageEnglish
Article number052902
Number of pages13
JournalPhysics of Plasmas
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 13 May 2013


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