Impact of Heavy Ions on Reconnection Rate and Dipolarization Fronts during Magnetotail Reconnection

Friday, 18 December 2015
Poster Hall (Moscone South)
Haoming Liang1, Maha Ashour-Abdalla1, Giovanni Lapenta2 and Raymond J Walker3, (1)University of California Los Angeles, Physics and Astronomy, Los Angeles, CA, United States, (2)Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Leuven, Belgium, (3)University of California Los Angeles, Earth, Planetary, and Space Sciences, Los Angeles, CA, United States
Spacecraft observations show that near a magnetotail X-line, the concentration of oxygen (O+) ions varies greatly between storm-time and non-storm substorms. While O+ is a minor ion species during the non-storm substorms, it can become a major ion species during some storm-time substorms. It is important to understand how such a significant amount of O+ influences the onset of reconnection, the reconnection rate and the subsequent energy transfer at propagating dipolarization fronts (or reconnection jet fronts). In this work, we have studied the effects of O+ on the reconnection rate and DFs during magnetotail reconnection. We used a 2.5D implicit Particle-in-Cell simulation in a 2D Harris current sheet in the presence of H+ and O+ ions. We carried out a simulation with equal number densities of O+ and H+ (O+ Run) and compared the results with a simulation run using only H+ ions (H+ Run). We found that the reconnection rate in the O+ Run is much less than that in the H+ Run and identified two factors that contribute to this difference: (1) the O+ drag on the convective magnetic flux via an ambipolar electric field in O+ diffusion region; (2) the current sheet O+ inertia, which reduces the DF speed and delays the fast reconnection phase in the O+ Run. For factor (2) the O+ ions provide the main force contributions at the DFs and thereby determine the thickness of DFs provided the concentration of O+ is large enough. The velocity distribution functions of O+ have several peaks that result from ion reflection and acceleration near the DFs. These results illustrate some of the differences between the storm-time and non-storm substorms due to a significant concentration of heavy ions. They also are directly related to the expected observations by the Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) mission.