http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magnetic_reconnection Magnetic reconnection is the process whereby magnetic field lines from different magnetic domains are spliced to one another, changing their patterns of connectivity with respect to the sources. It is a violation of an approximate conservation law in plasma physics, and can concentrate mechanical or magnetic energy in both space and time. Solar flares, the largest explosions in the solar system, may involve the reconnection of large systems of magnetic flux on the Sun, releasing, in minutes, energy that has been stored in the magnetic field over a period of hours to days. Magnetic reconnection in Earth's magnetosphere is one of the mechanisms responsible for the aurora, and it is important to the science of controlled nuclear fusion because it is one mechanism preventing magnetic confinement of the fusion fuel. … Magnetic reconnection is something that has supposedly been "tested" and proven in the lab yet for some reason the lab results keep coming out "wrong." Currently when scientists create a "reconnection" event in the lab between two electrically charged plasma sheets the "reconnection" event takes place at twice the speed MHD theory predicts. So far no one has been able to rectify this problem, nor have they been able to produce a "reconnecting" magnetic field without first applying current to the plasma sheets they are observing. The reason being obvious of course, in order to create a magnetic field, one must first induce an electrical current. So far, this is the only known way of producing a magnetic field in a plasma that can be tested. As soon as the current shuts off, so too does the magnetic field. Magnetic reconnection is proposed to account for the sudden bursts of observed kinetic energies that power the aurora's substorms and light up the polar skies. It’s also proposed to account for about a billion other phenomena that I will not get into here. Focusing on the aurora, some very interesting facts come to light. THEMIS, Viking, FAST, UARS and several other satellites have confirmed the existence of parallel electric fields powering the auroras. Electric fields of course must complete a circuit in order to flow. Without charge deficiency in one area of space, there would be no current flow which is a product of charge equalization. Some papers on the findings of parallel electric field aligned currents, otherwise known as "Birkeland currents" after Kristian Birkeland, the man who postulated their existence back in 1901.… http://www.iop.org/EJ/abstract/0741-3335/41/3A/004 Quasi-static, magnetic-field-aligned (parallel) potentials have been considered the primary source of charged particle acceleration in the aurora where precipitating electrons create a visible display. This finding has been controversial since, at one time, it was widely believed that parallel potentials could not be supported by a collisionless plasma. We present observations from the fast auroral snapshot (FAST) satellite which strongly support this acceleration mechanism and, moreover, show evidence of a second plasma regime region which supports quasi-static parallel potentials. http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/1990/GL017i013p02329.shtml Electron distribution functions measured on the Dynamics Explorer 1 spacecraft are shown to have the characteristics expected in a region of parallel electric fields. http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/1998/97JA02587.shtml Using plasma wave data sampled by the Freja spacecraft from the topside ionosphere during auroral conditions, the possible existence of electric fields with an intense parallel component (a few tens of millivolts per meter) with respect to the Earth's magnetic field is discussed. http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/2003/2001JA007540.shtml We present a survey of 64 direct observations of large-amplitude parallel electric fields E∥ in the upward current region of the southern auroral acceleration zone, obtained by the three-axis electric field experiment on Polar. http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/2004/2004JA010545.shtml Satellite observations have established that parallel electric fields of both upward and downward current regions of the aurora are supported, at least in part, by strong double layers. http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/1988/JA093iA09p09777.shtml It is demonstrated that the simultaneous observations on Viking of upward field-aligned fluxes of energetic ions and electrons of energies in the same range may be due to acceleration in field-aligned electric fields, the ions in an upward directed parallel dc field and the electrons in a downward directed parallel field which is fluctuating but appears as quasi-static for the electrons as long as they are in the acceleration region. http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/1998/98JA01236.shtml Magnetic field and particle observations from the Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite particle environment monitor (UARS/PEM) are used to estimate field-aligned currents, electron precipitation energy flux, ionospheric conductivities, and Joule heating rates during the main phase of the November 4, 1993, geomagnetic storm. … Given that we know field aligned electrical currents exist in the space plasma surrounding earth, some fundamental properties of conducting plasma can be employed to describe the events many astrophysicists currently ascribe to “magnetic reconnection.” So let’s look at some papers, the models, and how they are related to the observed phenomena. … R. E. Ergun et al.: Double layers in the downward current region of the aurora Nonlinear Processes in Geophysics (2003) 10: 45–52 http://hal.archives-ouvertes.fr/docs/00/30/21/71/PDF/npg-10-45-2003.pdf [Broken] These results suggest that large double layers can account for the parallel electric field in the downward current region and that intense electrostatic turbulence rapidly stabilizes the accelerated electron distributions. These results also demonstrate that parallel electric fields are directly associated with the generation of large-amplitude electron phasespace holes and plasma waves…. We presented direct observations of the parallel electric field in the downward current region of the auroral zone. The observations are consistent with a strong double layer moving along B at the ion acoustic speed in the same direction of the accelerated electrons. The potential drop extends _10 _D along B. Intense electrostatic emissions are spatially separated from the structure on the high-potential side. Electron phase-space holes emerge from the wave turbulence associated with the double layer. The potential structure accelerates electrons to several times their initial thermal velocity which results in a factor of 10 gain from the initial thermal energy. Intense quasielectrostatic wave emissions and electron phase-space holes rapidly modify the accelerated electron distribution. Part of the electron distribution (stagnating electrons) is reflected back into the double layer through interaction with the intense wave turbulence. Thus, the intense wave turbulence may interact with the double layer through this stagnating electron population. Singh, N., and G. Khazanov (2003), Double layers in expanding plasmas and their relevance to the auroral plasma processes, J. Geophys. Res., 108(A4), 8007, doi:10.1029/2002JA009436. http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/2003/2002JA009436.shtml When a dense plasma consisting of a cold and a sufficiently warm electron population expands, a rarefaction shock forms [ Bezzerides et al., 1978 ]. In the expansion of the polar wind in the magnetosphere, it has been previously shown that when a sufficiently warm electron population also exists, in addition to the usual cold ionospheric one, a discontinuity forms in the electrostatic potential distribution along the magnetic field lines [ Barakat and Schunk, 1984 ]. Despite the lack of spatial resolution and the assumption of quasi-neutrality in the polar wind models, such discontinuities have been called double layers (DLs). Recently similar discontinuities have been invoked to partly explain the auroral acceleration of electrons and ions in the upward current region [ Ergun et al., 2000 ]. By means of one-dimensional Vlasov simulations of expanding plasmas, for the first time we make here the connection between (1) the rarefaction shocks, (2) the discontinuities in the potential distributions, and (3) DLs. We show that when plasmas expand from opposite directions into a deep density cavity with a potential drop across it and when the plasma on the high-potential side contains hot and cold electron populations, the temporal evolution of the potential and the plasma distribution generates evolving multiple double layers with an extended density cavity between them. One of the DLs is the rarefaction-shock (RFS) and it forms by the reflections of the cold electrons coming from the high-potential side; it supports a part of the potential drop approximately determined by the hot electron temperature. The other DLs evolve from charge separations arising either from reflection of ions coming from the low-potential side or stemming from plasma instabilities; they support the rest of the potential drop. The instabilities forming these additional double layers involve electron-ion (e-i) Buneman or ion-ion (i-i) two-stream interactions. The electron-electron two-stream interactions on the high-potential side of the RFS generate electron-acoustic waves, which evolve into electron phase-space holes. The ion population originating from the low-potential side and trapped by the RFS is energized by the e-i and i-i instabilities and it eventually precipitates into the high-potential plasma along with an electron beam. Applications of these findings to the auroral plasma physics are discussed. … Quoting http://dic.academic.ru/dic.nsf/enwiki/7574382" definition of a double layer Current carrying double layers may arise in plasmas carrying a current. Various instabilities can be responsible for the formation of these layers. One example is the Buneman instability which occurs when the streaming velocity of the electrons (basically the current density divided by the electron density) exceeds the electron thermal velocity of the plasma. Double layers (and other phase space structures) are often formed in the non-linear phase of the instability. One way of viewing the Buneman instability is to describe what happens when the current (in the form of a zero temperature electron beam) has to pass through a region of decreased ion density. In order to prevent charge from accumulating, the current in the system must be the same everywhere (in this 1D model). The electron density also has to be close to the ion density (quasineutrality), so there is also a dip in electron density. The electrons must therefore be accelerated into the density cavity, to maintain the same current density with a lower density of charge carriers. This implies that the density cavity is at a high electrical potential. As a consequence, the ions are accelerated out of the cavity, amplifying the density perturbation. Then there is the situation of a double-double layer, of which one side will most likely be convected away by the plasma, leaving a regular double layer. This is the process in which double layers are produced along planetary magnetic field lines in so-called Birkeland currents. … Another known property of charged plasma that can explain the sudden and dramatic bursts of kinetic energy we see in the aurora substorms is something called an “exploding double layer.” Given that we have parallel currents and double layers in the surrounding regions of earths magnetosphere; a simple explanation arises for the sudden substorms: Stability: Double layers in laboratory plasmas may be stable or unstable depending on the parameter regime. [Torven, S. High-voltage double layers in a magnetised plasma column] " (1982) "Journal of Physics D: Applied Physics", Volume 15, Issue 10, pp. 1943-1949] Various types of instabilities may occur, often arising due to the formation of beams of ions and electrons. Unstable double layers are "noisy" in the sense that they produce oscillations across a wide frequency band. A lack of plasma stability may also lead to a dramatic change in configuration often referred to as an explosion (and hence "exploding double layer"). In one example, the region enclosed in the double layer rapidly expands and evolves. [B Song, N D Angelo and R L Merlino Stability of a spherical double layer produced through ionization] " (1992) Journal of "Physics D: Applied Physics", Volume 25, Issue 6, pp. 938-941] An explosion of this type was first discovered in mercury arc rectifiers used in high-power direct-current transmission lines, where the voltage drop across the device was seen to increase by several orders of magnitude. Double layers may also drift, usually in the direction of the emitted electron beam, and in this respect are natural analogues to the smooth--bore magnetron. [ Koenraad Mouthaan and Charles Süsskind, Statistical Theory of Electron Transport in the Smooth-Bore Magnetron] (1966) "Journal of Applied Physics" June 1966, Volume 37, Issue 7, pp. 2598-2606 ] ) (not to be confused with a unit of magnetic moment, the Bohr magneton, which is created by the "classical circular motion" of an electron around a proton). This idea was put forth by Hannes Alfven after the rectifier incident noted above. Double layers and circuits in astrophysics Alfven, Hannes IEEE Transactions on Plasma Science (ISSN 0093-3813), vol. PS-14, Dec. 1986, p. 779-793 http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/1986ITPS...14..779A Continuing on with “magnetic reconnection” as a theory, we find it violates known laws of physics. Fälthammar, does an excellent job describing the problems with “magnetic reconnection” theory as it pertains to real current carrying plasmas here: On the Concept of Moving Magnetic Field Lines Eos, Vol. 88, No. 15, 10 April 2007 http://plasma.colorado.edu/phys7810/articles/Falthammar_MovingFieldLines_2007.pdf Alfvén, who had introduced the concept, became a strong critic of ‘moving’ magnetic field lines [Alfvén, 1976], especially in his later years. He warned against use of the concepts of ‘frozen-in’ and ‘moving’ magnetic field lines for the reasons that are emphasized above. The basic reason for these difficulties with ‘moving’ magnetic field lines is, of course, that motion of magnetic field lines is inherently meaningless. The magnetic field B is a vector field defined as a function of space coordinates and time. At a fixed time, one may trace a field line from any given point in space. But that field line has no identity, and in a time-dependent magnetic field it cannot be identified with any field line at a different time, except by one convention or another. As we have seen, such conventions are fraught with pitfalls and should only be used with utmost care lest they lead to erroneous conclusions. To paraphrase Ralph Nader, moving magnetic field lines are “unsafe at any speed.” As does Donald Scott: Real Properties of Electromagnetic Fields and Plasma in the Cosmos IEEE TRANSACTIONS ON PLASMA SCIENCE, VOL. 35, NO. 4, AUGUST 2007 http://members.cox.net/dascott3/IEEE-TransPlasmaSci-Scott-Aug2007.pdf Alfvén  was explicit in his condemnation of the reconnecting concept: “Of course there can be no magnetic merging energy transfer. The most important criticism of the merging mechanism is that by Heikkila , who, with increasing strength, has demonstrated that it is wrong. In spite of all this, we have witnessed, at the same time, an enormously voluminous formalism building up based on this obviously erroneous concept. … Hannes Alfvén, a Nobel Laureate, being the founding father of MHD theory that magnetic reconnection is predicated on. This leaves us with two competing models to describe the function of the Aurora and other astrophysical plasmas, one being based on a theory that violates known laws of physics, the other being based on known properties of conducting plasmas.