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Letters of the Astrophysical Journal


Recently, the fragmentation of a current sheet in the high-Lundquist-number regime caused by the plasmoid instability has been proposed as a possible mechanism for fast reconnection. In this work, we investigate this scenario by comparing the distribution of plasmoids obtained from Large Angle and Spectrometric Coronagraph (LASCO) observational data of a coronal mass ejection event with a resistive magnetohydrodynamic simulation of a similar event. The LASCO/C2 data are analyzed using visual inspection, whereas the numerical data are analyzed using both visual inspection and a more precise topological method. Contrasting the observational data with numerical data analyzed with both methods, we identify a major limitation of the visual inspection method, due to the difficulty in resolving smaller plasmoids. This result raises questions about reports of log-normal distributions of plasmoids and other coherent features in the recent literature. Based on nonlinear scaling relations of the plasmoid instability, we infer a lower bound on the current sheet width, assuming the underlying mechanism of current sheet broadening is resistive diffusion.