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Global structure of magnetotail reconnection revealed by mining space magnetometer data
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  • Grant K. Stephens,
  • Mikhail I. Sitnov,
  • Robert S Weigel,
  • Drew L. Turner,
  • Nikolai A. Tsyganenko,
  • Anthony Rogers,
  • Kevin J Genestreti,
  • James A. Slavin
Grant K. Stephens
Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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Mikhail I. Sitnov
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Robert S Weigel
George Mason University
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Drew L. Turner
The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory
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Nikolai A. Tsyganenko
Saint Petersburg State University
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Anthony Rogers
University of New Hampshire
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Kevin J Genestreti
Southwest Research Institute
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James A. Slavin
University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
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Reconnection in the magnetotail occurs along so-called X-lines, where magnetic field lines tear and detach from plasma on microscopic spatial scales (comparable to particle gyroradii). In 2017–2020 the Magnetospheric MultiScale (MMS) mission detected X-lines in the magnetotail enabling their investigation on local scales. However, the global structure and evolution of these X-lines, critical for understanding their formation and total energy conversion mechanisms, remained virtually unknown because of the intrinsically local nature of observations and the extreme sparsity of concurrent data. Here we show that mining a multi-mission archive of space magnetometer data collected over the last 25+ years and then fitting a magnetic field representation modeled using flexible basis-functions, faithfully reconstructs the global pattern of X-lines; 24 of the 26 modeled X-lines match ($B_z=0$ isocontours are within $\sim2$ Earth radii or $R_E$) or nearly match ($B_z=2$ nT isocontours are within $\sim2 R_E$) the locations of the MMS encountered reconnection sites.