The appearance, motion, and disappearance of three-dimensional magnetic null points

Nicholas A. Murphy, Clare Elizabeth Parnell, Andrew Lewis Haynes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


While theoretical models and simulations of magnetic reconnection often assume symmetry such that the magnetic null point when present is co-located with a flow stagnation point, the introduction of asymmetry typically leads to non-ideal flows across the null point. To understand this behavior, we present exact expressions for the motion of three-dimensional linear null points. The most general expression shows that linear null points move in the direction along which the magnetic field and its time derivative are antiparallel. Null point motion in resistive magnetohydrodynamics results from advection by the bulk plasma flow and resistive diffusion of the magnetic field, which allows non-ideal flows across topological boundaries. Null point motion is described intrinsically by parameters evaluated locally; however, global dynamics help set the local conditions at the null point. During a bifurcation of a degenerate null point into a null-null pair or the reverse, the instantaneous velocity of separation or convergence of the null-null pair will typically be infinite along the null space of the Jacobian matrix of the magnetic field, but with finite components in the directions orthogonal to the null space. Not all bifurcating null-null pairs are connected by a separator. Furthermore, except under special circumstances, there will not exist a straight line separator connecting a bifurcating null-null pair. The motion of separators cannot be described using solely local parameters because the identification of a particular field line as a separator may change as a result of non-ideal behavior elsewhere along the field line.
Original languageEnglish
Article number102117
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalPhysics of Plasmas
Issue number10
Early online date30 Oct 2015
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2015


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