The nature of separator current layers in MHS equilibria I. Current parallel to the separator

Julie Elizabeth Helen Stevenson, Clare Elizabeth Parnell, Eric Ronald Priest, Andrew Lewis Haynes

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13 Citations (Scopus)
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Separators, which are in many ways the three-dimensional equivalent to two-dimensional nulls, are important sites for magnetic reconnection. Magnetic reconnection occurs in strong current layers which have very short length scales. The aim of this work is to explore the nature of current layers around separators. A separator is a special field line which lies along the intersection of two separatrix surfaces and forms the boundary between four topologically distinct flux domains. In particular, here the current layer about a separator that joins two 3D nulls and lies along the intersection of their separatrix surfaces is investigated. A magnetic configuration containing a single separator embedded in a uniform plasma with a uniform electric current parallel to the separator is considered. This initial magnetic setup, which is not in equilibrium, relaxes in a non-resistive manner to form an equilibrium. The relaxation is achieved using the 3D MHD code, Lare3d, with resistivity set to zero. A series of experiments with varying initial current are run to investigate the characteristics of the resulting current layers present in the final (quasi-) equilibrium states. In each experiment, the separator collapses and a current layer forms along it. The dimensions and strength of the current layer increase with initial current. It is found that separator current layers formed from current parallel to the separator are twisted. Also the collapse of the separator is a process that evolves like an infinite-time singularity where the length, width and peak current in the layer grow slowly whilst the depth of the current layer decreases.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberA44
Number of pages15
JournalAstronomy & Astrophysics
Early online date15 Dec 2014
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2015


  • Magnetohydrodynamics (MHD)
  • 3D nulls
  • Separators
  • Current layer


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