Fragmentation of electric currents in the solar corona by plasma flows
Astronomy and Astrophysics
We consider a magnetic configuration consisting of an arcade structure and a detached plasmoid, resulting from a magnetic reconnection process, as is typically found in connection with solar flares. We study spontaneous current fragmentation caused by shear and vortex plasma flows. An exact analytical transformation method was applied to calculate self-consistent solutions of the nonlinear stationary MHD equations. The assumption of incompressible field-aligned flows implies that both the
... Mach number and the mass density are constant on field lines. We first calculated nonlinear MHS equilibria with the help of the Liouville method, emulating the scenario of a solar eruptive flare configuration with plasmoids and flare arcade. Then a Mach number profile was constructed that describes the upflow along the open magnetic field lines and implements a vortex flow inside the plasmoid. This Mach number profile was used to map the MHS equilibrium to the stationary one. We find that current fragmentation takes place at different locations within our configuration. Steep gradients of the Alfven Mach number are required, implying the strong influence of shear flows on current amplification and filamentation of the MHS current sheets. Crescent- or ring-like structures appear along the outer separatrix, butterfly structures between the upper and lower plasmoids, and strong current peaks close the lower boundary. Impressing an intrinsic small-scale structure on the upper plasmoid results in strong fragmentation of the plasmoid. Hence fragmentation of current sheets and plasmoids is an inherent property of MHD theory. Transformations from MHS into MHD steady-states deliver fine-structures needed for plasma heating and acceleration of particles and bulk plasma flows in dissipative events that are typically connected to magnetic reconnection processes in flares and coronal mass ejections.