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Magnetic Reconnection Theory

Participation in INI programmes is by invitation only. Anyone wishing to apply to participate in the associated workshop(s) should use the relevant workshop application form.

2nd August 2004 to 27th August 2004
Eric Priest [University of St. Andrews], [St Andrews University]
Joachim Birn [Los Alamos Laboratories], Los Alamos National Laboratory
Terry Forbes University of New Hampshire, [EOS Institute]


Programme theme

Magnetic reconnection is a fundamental process in a magnetized plasma or fluid at high magnetic Reynolds number, whereby magnetic field lines are broken and reconnected in an electric current singularity that is resolved by magnetic diffusion. It has the effect of converting inflowing magnetic energy into bulk kinetic energy, heat and fast particle energy. Reconnection is responsible for many dynamic processes in the Sun, the Magnetosphere, the laboratory and many astrophysical bodies, but in this Programme we shall be focusing on the fundamentals of the process and on the first two fields.

In the Sun, solar flares represent an explosive conversion of stored magnetic energy by reconnection into other forms. In addition, reconnection is likely to be heating the solar corona in many small current sheets to several million degrees by comparison with the solar surface temperature of only 6000 degrees. In the Magnetosphere, the solar wind sweeps back the Earth's magnetic field to form a tail. Occasionally, the field in the tail can reconnect in an explosive manner, producing a geomagnetic substorm. Reconnection can also occur sporadically over the front face of the magnetopause bounding the geomagnetic and interplanetary magnetic field to produce so-called 'flux-transfer events'.

The basic theory of MHD reconnection in two dimensions is now well developed and the time is ripe for two new developments, which are the main aims of the Programme, namely, to develop

  1. the theory for the way the process can operate in three dimensions;
  2. models for the various aspects of collisionless reconnection.


We envisage having a two-day introductory workshop at the beginning just for the long-term programme participants to set the scene, at which we would each describe our recent results and make suggestions for possible future work during the programme.

There would be a series of seminars and informal brainstorming sessions on various key topics throughout the 4 weeks, with the emphasis on the sharing of ideas and genuine cross-fertilization. In addition we hope to hold a one-day workshop during the second week and another during the third week

Long-Term Participants

There will be a core of about 25 long-stay participants who will stay for the whole 4 weeks. It is hoped that this will maximize the effectiveness of the programme. In addition, some short-stay participants would stay for a week or so.

The following is the list of people who have so far agreed to be long-term participants for the whole duration of the Programme.


Prof M Berger
University College London

Prof P Cargill
Imperial College
web page -

Dr L Fletcher
Glasgow University
web page -

Dr T Neukirch
St Andrews University
web page -

Dr C Parnell
St Andrews University
web page -

Prof E Priest
St Andrews University
web page -


Prof HK Moffatt
DAMTP Silver Street

Prof MRE Proctor
DAMTP Silver Street
web page -

Prof NO Weiss
DAMTP Silver Street
web page -

Continental European

Dr J Buechner
Max Planck Institut fur Aeronomie, Lindau

Dr K Galsgaard
Astronomical Observatory, Copenhagen
web page -

Dr. Gunnar Hornig
Ruhr-Universitaet, Bochum

Dr M Scholer
Max-Planck-Institut fur Extraterrestriche Physik, Munich

Dr V Titov
Ruhr-Universitaet, Bochum


Dr A Bhattacharjee
University of New Hampshire
web page -

Dr J Birn
Los Alamos National Lab
web page -

Dr. James F. Drake
University of Maryland
web page -

Dr. T.G. Forbes
University of Durham

Dr M Hesse
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
web page -

Dr K Kusano
Hiroshima University

Dr M Linton
Naval Research Laboratory, Washington

Dr D Longcope
Montana State University
web page -

Dr P Pritchett

Prof M Hoshino
University of Tokyo

Final Scientific Report: 
University of Cambridge Research Councils UK
    Clay Mathematics Institute London Mathematical Society NM Rothschild and Sons