Quasi-separatrix layers induced by ballooning instability in the near-Earth magnetotail
Magnetic reconnection processes in the near-Earth magnetotail can be highly three-dimensional (3-D) in geometry and dynamics, even though the magnetotail configuration itself is nearly two-dimensional due to the symmetry in the dusk–dawn direction. Such reconnection processes can be induced by the 3-D dynamics of nonlinear ballooning instability. In this work, we explore the global 3-D geometry of the reconnection process induced by ballooning instability in the near-Earth magnetotail by examining the distribution of quasi-separatrix layers associated with plasmoid formation in the entire 3-D domain of magnetotail configuration, using an algorithm previously developed in the context of solar physics. The 3-D distribution of quasi-separatrix layers (QSLs) as well as their evolution directly follow the plasmoid formation during the nonlinear development of ballooning instability in both time and space. Such a close correlation demonstrates a strong coupling between the ballooning and the corresponding reconnection processes. It further confirms the intrinsic 3-D nature of the ballooning-induced plasmoid formation and reconnection processes, in both geometry and dynamics. In addition, the reconstruction of the 3-D QSL geometry may provide an alternative means of identifying the location and timing of 3-D reconnection sites in the magnetotail from both numerical simulations and satellite observations.