The Impact of Oxygen on the Reconnection Rate
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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We investigate the role of a background oxygen population in magnetic reconnection, using particle‐in‐cell simulations. We run several simulations, with different initial oxygen temperatures and densities, to understand how the reconnection rate is influenced, as oxygen is captured by the reconnection process. The oxygen remains approximately demagnetized on the relevant time and spatial scales and therefore has little direct (i.e., immediate mass loading) effect on the reconnection process itself. The reconnection rate is independent of the initial oxygen temperature but clearly dependent on the density. The reduced reconnection rate is twice as fast as predicted by mass loading. We describe a mechanism where the oxygen population (and the associated electrons) acts as an energy sink on the system, altering the energy partitioning. Based on a scaling analysis, we derive an estimate of the reconnection electric field that scales as (1+no/np)−1, where no and np is the oxygen and proton densities, respectively.