Three-dimensional magnetic reconnection in astrophysical plasmas

Ting Li*, E. Priest, R. Guo

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

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Magnetic reconnection is a fundamental process in laboratory, magnetospheric, solar and astrophysical plasmas, whereby magnetic energy is converted into heat, bulk kinetic energy and fast particle energy. Its nature in two dimensions is much better understood than that in three dimensions, where its character is completely different and has many diverse aspects that are currently being explored. Here, we focus on the magnetohydrodynamics of three-dimensional reconnection in the plasma environment of the Solar System, especially solar flares. The theory of reconnection at null points, separators and quasi-separators is described, together with accounts of numerical simulations and observations of these three types of reconnection. The distinction between separator and quasi-separator reconnection is a theoretical one that is unimportant for the observations of energy release. A new paradigm for solar flares, in which three-dimensional reconnection plays a central role, is proposed.
Original languageEnglish
Article number20200949
Number of pages39
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences
Issue number2249
Early online date12 May 2021
Publication statusPublished - 26 May 2021


  • Coronal heating
  • Magnetic fields
  • Magnetic reconnection
  • Magnetohydrodynamics
  • MHD
  • Solar flares


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