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Magnetic Field Annihilation in a Magnetotail Electron Diffusion Region With Electron‐Scale Magnetic Island


We present observations in Earth's magnetotail by the Magnetospheric Multiscale spacecraft that are consistent with magnetic field annihilation, rather than magnetic topology change, causing fast magnetic-to-electron energy conversion in an electron-scale current sheet. Multi-spacecraft analysis for the magnetic field reconstruction shows that an electron-scale magnetic island was embedded in the observed electron diffusion region (EDR), suggesting an elongated shape of the EDR. Evidence for the annihilation was revealed in the form of the island growing at a rate much lower than expected for the standard X-type geometry of the EDR, which indicates that magnetic flux injected into the EDR was not ejected from the X-point or accumulated in the island, but was dissipated in the EDR. This energy conversion process is in contrast to that in the standard EDR of a reconnecting current sheet where the energy of antiparallel magnetic fields is mostly converted to electron bulk-flow energy. Fully kinetic simulation also demonstrates that an elongated EDR is subject to the formation of electron-scale magnetic islands in which fast but transient annihilation can occur. Consistent with the observations and simulation, theoretical analysis shows that fast magnetic diffusion can occur in an elongated EDR in the presence of nongyrotropic electron effects. We suggest that the annihilation in elongated EDRs may contribute to the dissipation of magnetic energy in a turbulent collisionless plasma.

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