Journal Article

Magnetohydrodynamic relaxation of AGN ejecta: radio bubbles in the intracluster medium

Jonathan Braithwaite

in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Published on behalf of The Royal Astronomical Society

Volume 406, issue 2, pages 705-719
Published in print August 2010 | ISSN: 0035-8711
Published online July 2010 | e-ISSN: 1365-2966 | DOI:
Magnetohydrodynamic relaxation of AGN ejecta: radio bubbles in the intracluster medium

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X-ray images of galaxy clusters often display underdense bubbles which are apparently inflated by active galactic nucleus (AGN) outflow. I consider the evolution of the magnetic field inside such a bubble, using a mixture of analytic and numerical methods. It is found that the field relaxes into an equilibrium, filling the entire volume of the bubble. The time-scale on which this happens depends critically on the magnetization and helicity of the outflow as well as on the properties of the surrounding intracluster medium (ICM). If the outflow is strongly magnetized, the magnetic field undergoes reconnection on a short time-scale, magnetic energy being converted into heat whilst the characteristic length-scale of the field rises; this process stops when a global equilibrium is reached. The strength of the equilibrium field is determined by the magnetic helicity injected into the bubble by the AGN: if the outflow has a consistent net flux and consequently a large helicity then a global equilibrium will be reached on a short time-scale, whereas a low-helicity outflow results in no global equilibrium being reached and at the time of observation reconnection will be ongoing. However, localized flux-tube equilibria will form. If, on the other hand, the outflow is very weakly magnetized, no reconnection occurs and the magnetic field inside the bubble remains small-scale and passive. These results have implications for the internal composition of the bubbles, for their interaction with the ICM – in particular to explain how bubbles could move a large distance through the ICM without breaking up – as well as for the cooling flow problem in general. In addition, reconnection sites in a bubble could be a convenient source of energetic particles, circumventing the problem of synchrotron emitters having a shorter lifetime than the age of the bubble they inhabit.

Keywords: MHD; galaxies: clusters: general; intergalactic medium; galaxies: jets; galaxies: magnetic fields; X-rays: galaxies: clusters

Journal Article.  11883 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics

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