Journal Article

Simulations of cosmic-ray feedback by active galactic nuclei in galaxy clusters

Debora Sijacki, Christoph Pfrommer, Volker Springel and Torsten A. Enßlin

in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Published on behalf of The Royal Astronomical Society

Volume 387, issue 4, pages 1403-1415
Published in print July 2008 | ISSN: 0035-8711
Published online July 2008 | e-ISSN: 1365-2966 | DOI:
Simulations of cosmic-ray feedback by active galactic nuclei in galaxy clusters

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Feedback processes by active galactic nuclei (AGN) appear to be a key for understanding the nature of the very X-ray luminous cool cores found in many clusters of galaxies. We investigate a numerical model for AGN feedback where for the first time a relativistic particle population in AGN-inflated bubbles is followed within a full cosmological context. In our high-resolution simulations of galaxy cluster formation, we assume that black hole accretion is accompanied by energy feedback that occurs in two different modes, depending on the accretion rate itself. At high accretion rates, a small fraction of the radiated energy is coupled thermally to the gas surrounding the quasar, while in a low-accretion state, mechanically efficient feedback in the form of hot, buoyant bubbles that are inflated by radio activity is considered. Unlike previous work, we inject a non-thermal particle population of relativistic protons into the AGN bubbles, instead of adopting a purely thermal heating. We then follow the subsequent evolution of the cosmic-ray (CR) plasma inside the bubbles, considering both its hydrodynamical interactions and dissipation processes relevant to the CR population. This permits us to analyse the impact of CR bubbles on the surrounding intracluster medium, and in particular, how this contrasts with the purely thermal case. Due to the different buoyancy of relativistic plasma and the comparatively long CR dissipation time-scale, we find substantial changes in the evolution of clusters as a result of CR feedback. In particular, the non-thermal population can provide significant pressure support in central cluster regions at low thermal temperatures, providing a natural explanation for the decreasing temperature profiles found in cool core clusters. At the same time, the morphologies of the bubbles and of the induced X-ray cavities show a striking similarity to observational findings. AGN feedback with CRs also proves efficient in regulating cluster cooling flows so that the total baryon fraction in stars becomes limited to realistic values of the order of ∼10 per cent, more than a factor of 3 reduction compared with cosmological simulations that only consider radiative cooling and supernova feedback. We find that the partial CR support of the intracluster gas also affects the expected signal of the thermal Sunyaev–Zel'dovich effect, with typical modifications of the integrated Compton-y parameter within the virial radius of the order of ∼10 per cent.

Keywords: black hole physics; methods: numerical; cosmic rays; galaxies: clusters: general; cosmology: theory

Journal Article.  9263 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics

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