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The Thickness of Electric Current Sheets

Presentation #404.04 in the session Coronal Heating Modeling.

Published onSep 18, 2023
The Thickness of Electric Current Sheets

The thickness of electric current sheets is extremely important, especially as it relates to the onset of fast magnetic reconnection. Onset determines how much magnetic free energy can build up in a field before it is explosively released. This has implications for coronal heating, CMEs, and many other phenomena on the Sun and throughout the universe. Significant effort has been devoted to the question of whether equilibrium current sheets in realistic geometries have finite or zero thickness. Using a simple force balance analysis, we show why current sheets without a guide field (2D) and with a guide field that is invariant in the guide field direction (2.5D) cannot be in equilibrium if they have both finite thickness and finite width. We then estimate the conditions under which the tension of a curved line-tied guide field can produce a 3D equilibrium sheet that is finite in all dimensions. Finally, we speculate that some quasi-statically evolving current sheets undergoing slow stressing may reach a critical point at which equilibrium is no longer possible. They then rapidly thin and reconnect.

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