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Fast magnetic reconnection supported by sporadic small-scale Petschek-type shocks
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(MHD) theory predicts reconnection rate that is far too slow to account for a wide variety of reconnection events observed in space and laboratory plasmas. Therefore, it was commonly accepted that some non-MHD (kinetic) effects play a crucial role in fast reconnection. A recently renewed interest in simple MHD models is associated with the so-called plasmoid instability of reconnecting current sheets. Although it is now evident that this effect can significantly enhance the rate of reconnection, many details of the underlying multiple-plasmoid process still remain controversial. Here, we report results of a high-resolution computer simulation which demonstrate that fast albeit intermittent magnetic reconnection is sustained by numerous small-scale Petschek-type shocks spontaneously formed in the current sheet due to its plasmoid instability.
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