36th DPS Meeting, 8-12 November 2004
Session 21 Comets: Nuclei
Oral, Wednesday, November 10, 2004, 10:30-12:00noon, Clark

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[21.01] The Basic Physical Mechanism for Disconnection Events(DEs)

J. C. Brandt (Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of New Mexico)

Disconnection Events (DEs) are arguably the most dramatic phenomena in cometary physics. The entire plasma tail disconnects from the head, and image sequences have been available for approximately one century. Many details were known to Barnard (1899, 1908, 1920) and his contemporaries. Modern DE studies began with the rediscovery of the phenomena by Niedner & Brandt (1978) and their proposal that the physical mechanism was the severing of the magnetic field lines by magnetic reconnection at crossings of the heliospheric current sheet (HCS). While many areas of investigation—direct spacecraft observations (Niedner & Schwingenschuh 1987; Verigin et al. 1987; Kirsch et al. 1989); associations of DEs with solar-wind features (Niedner & Brandt 1979; Yi et al. 1994; Brandt et al. 1999); and magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) simulations of DEs (Yi et al. 1996)—strongly supported this physical mechanism, areas of concern or disagreement remained (e.g., Farnham & Meech 1994; Wegmann 1995, 1998, 2000). Recent results seem to resolve the problems in all areas. The associations of DEs with solar-wind features have been extensively reinvestigated (Niedner et al. 2005). In particular, many high-speed streams are not associated with the HCS (as many as 40%) and these high-speed streams are definitely not associated with DEs. Finally, Konz et al. (2004) have reproduced DEs at crossings of the HCS using plasma-neutral gas simulations with anomalous resistivity. The new evidence strongly confirms the sunward, magnetic reconnection physical mechanism proposed by Niedner & Brandt (1978).

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Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, 36 #4
© 2004. The American Astronomical Soceity.