Localized magnetic reconnection as a cause of extraplanar diffuse ionized gas in the Galactic halo

GT Birk, H Lesch, Thomas Neukirch

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23 Citations (Scopus)


Many observations indicate the occurrence of ionized gas in the distant haloes of galaxies (including our own). Since photoionization by stars (mainly O stars, young stars or evolved low-mass stars depending on the kind of galaxy) does not seem to be exclusively responsible for the ionization of the hydrogen filaments that should otherwise cool fast and recombine quickly, the question arises which extra energy source can produce the quasi-stationary ionization. We show that stationary localized magnetic reconnection in current filaments may contribute to the ionization of the extraplanar halo gas. In these filaments magnetic energy is dissipated. Consequently, the ionized as well as the neutral component is heated and re-ionized on a time-scale significantly shorter than the recombination time-scale. The amount of energy required for efficient re-ionization can in principle easily be provided by the free magnetic energy. We present quasi-static models that are characterized by plasma temperatures and densities that agree well with the observed values for the diffuse ionized gas component of the interstellar medium. Plasma-neutral gas fluid simulations are made to show that the recombination-induced dynamical reconnection process indeed works in a self-regulatory way.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)pp.165-172.
Number of pages8
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 1998


  • magnetic fields
  • plasmas
  • Galaxy : halo
  • galaxies : haloes
  • galaxies : ISM


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