EGU General Assembly 2021
© Author(s) 2021. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

MMS observations of electron firehose fluctuations in the magnetic reconnection outflow

Giulia Cozzani, Yuri Khotyaintsev, Daniel Graham, and Mats André
Giulia Cozzani et al.
  • Swedish Institute of Space Physics, Sweden (

Plasma waves and instabilities driven by temperature anisotropies are known to play a significant role in plasma dynamics, scattering the particles and affecting particle heating and energy conversion between the electromagnetic fields and the particles. Among these instabilities, the electron firehose instability is driven by electron temperature anisotropy Te, > Te,perp (with respect to the background magnetic field) and produce nonpropagating oblique modes. 

Magnetic reconnection is characterized by regions of enhanced temperature anisotropy that could drive instabilities - including the electron firehose instability - affecting the particle dynamics and the energy conversion of the process. Yet, the electron firehose instability and its role in the reconnection process is still rather unexplored, especially with in situ measurements. 

We report MMS observations of electron firehose fluctuations observed in the exhaust region of a reconnection site in the magnetotail. The fluctuations are observed in the Earthward outflow relatively close (less than 2 di distance) to the electron diffusion region (EDR). While the characteristics of the fluctuations are compatible with oblique electron firehose fluctuations, the associated firehose instability threshold is not exceeded in the interval where the fluctuations are observed. However, the threshold is exceeded in the EDR. The wave analysis in the EDR suggests that the firehose instability could be active at the reconnection site. We suggest that the firehose fluctuations observed in the outflow region may have been originated at the EDR, where the electron temperature anisotropy exceeds the threshold values, and then advected in the outflow region.

How to cite: Cozzani, G., Khotyaintsev, Y., Graham, D., and André, M.: MMS observations of electron firehose fluctuations in the magnetic reconnection outflow, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-14401,, 2021.