Presentation #209.06 in the session Connecting Magnetic Reconnection across Space and Laboratory Plasmas.
The magnetotail current sheet configuration determines magnetic reconnection properties that control the substorm onset, one of the most energetic phenomena in the Earth’s magnetosphere. The quiet-time current sheet is often approximated as a two-dimensional (2D) magnetic field configuration balanced by isotropic plasma pressure gradients. However, reconnection onset is preceded by the current sheet thinning and the formation of a nearly one-dimensional (1D) magnetic field configuration. In this study, using particle-in-cell simulations, we investigate the force balance of such thin current sheets when they are driven by plasma inflow. We demonstrate that the magnetic field configuration transitions from 2D to 1D thanks to the formation of plasma pressure nongyrotropy and reveal its origin in the nongyrotropic terms of the ion distributions. We show that substorm onset may be controlled by the instability and dynamics of such nongyrotropic current sheets, having properties much different from the most commonly investigated 2D isotropic configuration.
The work was supported by NASA awards 80NSSC18K1122, 80NSSC20K1788, and NAS5-02099.