Magnetic Reconnection Dynamics in the Presence of Low-energy Ion Component: PIC Simulations of Hidden Particle Population
Abstract:Magnetospheric and astrophysical plasmas are rarely in the state of thermal equilibrium. Plasma distribution functions may contain beams, supra-thermal tails, multiple ion and electron populations which are not thermalized over long time scales due to the lack of collisions between particles. In particular, the equatorial region of the dayside Earth’s magnetosphere is often populated by plasma containing hot and cold ion components of comparable densities [Andre and Cully, 2012], and such ion distribution alters properties of the magnetic reconnection regions at the magnetopause [Toledo‐Redondo et. al., 2015].
Motivated by these recent findings and also by fact that this region is one of the targets of the recently launched MMS mission, we performed 2D PIC simulations of magnetic reconnection in collisionless plasma with hot and cold ion components. We used a standard Harris current sheet, to which a uniform cold ion background is added.
We found that introduction of the cold component modifies the structure of reconnection diffusion region. Diffusion region displays three-scale structure, with the cold Ion Diffusion Region (cIDR) scale appearing in-between the Electron Diffusion Region (EDR) and Ion Diffusion Region (IDR) scales. Structure and strength of the Hall magnetic field depends weakly on cold ion temperature or density, and is rather controlled by the conditions (B, n) upstream the reconnection region.
The cold ions are accelerated predominantly transverse to the magnetic field by the Hall electric fields inside the IDR, leading to a large ion pressure anisotropy, which is unstable to ion Weibel-type or mirror-type mode. On the opposite, acceleration of cold ions is mostly field-aligned at the reconnection jet fronts downstream the X-line, producing intense ion phase-space holes there. Despite comparable reconnection rates produced , we find that the overall evolution of reconnection in presence of cold ion population is more dynamic compared to the case with a single hot ion component.