Magnetic Reconnection May Control the Ion-scale Spectral Break of Solar Wind Turbulence

Daniel Vech, Alfred Mallet, Kristopher G. Klein, Justin C. Kasper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


The power spectral density of magnetic fluctuations in the solar wind exhibits several power-law-like frequency ranges with a well-defined break between approximately 0.1 and 1 Hz in the spacecraft frame. The exact ependence of this break scale on solar wind parameters has been extensively studied but is not yet fully understood. Recent studies have suggested that reconnection may induce a break in the spectrum at a disruption scale λD, which may be larger than the fundamental ion kinetic scales, producing an unusually steep spectrum just below the break. We present a statistical investigation of the dependence of the break scale on the proton gyroradius pi, ion inertial length di, ion sound radius ps, proton-cyclotron resonance scale pc, and disruption scale λ D as a function of βτi. We find that the steepest spectral indices of the dissipation range occur when βe is in the range of 0.1-1 and the break scale is only slightly larger than the ion sound scale (a situation occurring 41% of the time at 1 au), in qualitative agreement with the reconnection model. In this range, the break scale shows a remarkably good correlation with λ D. Our findings suggest that, at least at low βe, reconnection may play an important role in the development of the dissipation range turbulent cascade and cause unusually steep (steeper than -3) spectral indices.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberL27
JournalAstrophysical Journal Letters
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 10 2018


  • magnetic reconnection
  • plasmas
  • solar wind
  • turbulence
  • waves

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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