Study of magnetic reconnection in collisional and collionless plasmas in Magnetic Reconnection Experiment (MRX)
Magnetic reconnection (Parker, 1957; Sweet, 1958; Petschek, 1964; Yamada et al., 2010; Biskamp, 2000; Tsuneta, 1996; Kivelson and Russell, 1995; Yamada, 2007; Birn et al., 2001; Drake et al., 2003) is considered important to many astrophysical phenomena including stellar flares, magnetospheric disruptions of magnetars, and dynamics of galactic lobes. Research on magnetic reconnection started with observations in solar coronae and in the Earths magnetosphere, and a classical theory was developed based on MHD. Recent progress has been made by understanding the two-fluid physics of reconnection, through space and astrophysical observations (Tsuneta, 1996; Kivelson and Russell, 1995), laboratory experiments (Yamada, 2007), and theory and numerical simulations (Birn et al., 2001; Daughton et al., 2006; Uzdensky and Kulsrud, 2006). Laboratory experiments dedicated to the study of the fundamental reconnection physics have tested the physics mechanisms and their required conditions, and have provided a much needed bridge between observations and theory. For example, the Magnetic Reconnection Experiment (MRX) experiment (http://mrx.pppl.gov) has rigorously cross-checked the leading theories though quantitative comparisons of the numerical simulations and space astrophysical observations (Mozer et al., 2002). Extensive data have been accumulated in a wide plasma parameter regime with Lundquist numbers of S = 100 - 3000, where S is a ratio of the magnetic diffusion time to the Alfven transit time.