Non-linear Tearing and Flux rope Formation in 3D Null Current Sheets

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Peter Fraser Wyper, Oak Ridge Associated Universities Inc., Oak Ridge, TN, United States; NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD, United States and David I Pontin, University of Dundee, Dundee, United Kingdom
The manner in which small scale structure affects the large scale reconnection process in realistic 3D geometries is still an unsolved problem. With the increase in computational resources and improvements in satellite instrumentation, signatures of flux ropes or “plasmoids” are now observed with increasing regularity, yet their formation and dynamics are poorly understood. It has been demonstrated that even at MHD scales, in 2D rapid non-linear tearing of Sweet-Parker-like layers forms multiple magnetic islands (“plasmoids”) and allows the reconnection rate to become almost independent of the Lundquist number (the “plasmoid instability”). This work presents some of our recent theoretical work focussing on an analogous instability in a fully 3D geometry. Using results from a series of 3D high resolution MHD simulations, the formation and evolution of fully three dimensional “flux rope” structures following the 3D plasmoid instability will be presented, and their effects on the manner of the reconnection process as a whole discussed.