Gentle reenergization of electrons in merging galaxy clusters

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Science Advances  04 Oct 2017:
Vol. 3, no. 10, e1701634
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1701634

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Galaxy clusters are the most massive constituents of the large-scale structure of the universe. Although the hot thermal gas that pervades galaxy clusters is relatively well understood through observations with x-ray satellites, our understanding of the nonthermal part of the intracluster medium (ICM) remains incomplete. With Low-Frequency Array (LOFAR) and Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (GMRT) observations, we have identified a phenomenon that can be unveiled only at extremely low radio frequencies and offers new insights into the nonthermal component. We propose that the interplay between radio-emitting plasma and the perturbed intracluster medium can gently reenergize relativistic particles initially injected by active galactic nuclei. Sources powered through this mechanism can maintain electrons at higher energies than radiative aging would allow. If this mechanism is common for aged plasma, a population of mildly relativistic electrons can be accumulated inside galaxy clusters providing the seed population for merger-induced reacceleration mechanisms on larger scales such as turbulence and shock waves.

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