Global impact of collisionless magnetic reconnection on the structure of planetary magnetospheres

Monday, 15 December 2014
John Dorelli, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD, United States, Alex Glocer, NASA/GSFC, Greenbelt, MD, United States, Glyn Collinson, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Heliophysics Sci. Div., Greenbelt, MD, United States and Gabor Toth, Univ Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, United States
While the local physics of collisionless magnetic reconnection has been well studied, the consequences for global magnetospheric structure remain largely unexplored.
It is well known, for example, that Hall electric fields generate a new system of field-aligned currents propagating from the reconnection site along the magnetic separatrices; but it is not known how these currents contribute to the global region 1 and region 2 current systems or to auroral substorm features.
In this presentation, we show that collisionless reconnection has a significant impact on the large scale structure of planetary magnetospheres. Using global Hall MHD simulations, we demonstrate that field-aligned currents generated at the reconnection sites (and carried by whistler or kinetic Alfven waves) extend all the way down to the surface of the magnetized body and must therefore be included in the magnetosphere-ionosphere coupling physics (e.g., Harang-like discontinuities in the ionospheric convection pattern -- absent in MHD -- are introduced, and the current densities are large enough to produce auroral emission). More surprisingly, ions and electrons pick up magnetic drifts (due to JxB forces in the ion diffusion regions) that significantly alter the global magnetospheric convection pattern. Ions in the plasma sheet drift duskward while electrons drift dawnward, producing large asymmetries in the plasma sheet structure even in the absense of solar wind asymmetry, asymmetric ionospheric conductance or co-rotation. We discuss the implications of these effects for the reconnection-driven magnetospheres of Ganymede, Mercury and Earth.