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- The impact of mergers on relaxed X-ray clusters I: dynamical evolution and emergent transient structures
- Poole, Gregory B.; Fardal, Mark A.; Babul, Arif; McCarthy, Ian G.; Quinn, Thomas R.; Wadsley, James W.
- We report on the analysis of a suite of smoothed particle hydrodynamics simulations (in-corporating cooling and star formation) of mergers involving idealized X-ray clusters whose initial conditions resemble relaxed clusters with cool compact cores observed by Chandra and XMM. The simulations sample the most-interesting, theoretically plausible, range of impact parameters and progenitor mass ratios. We find that all mergers evolve via a common progression. We illustrate this progression in the projected gas density, X-ray surface brightness, Sunyaev-Zel'dovich, temperature, and gas-entropy maps. Several different classes of transient 'cold front' like features can arise over the course of a merger. Each class is distinguished by a distinct morphological signature and physical cause. We find that all these classes are present in Chandra and XMM observations of merging systems and propose a naming scheme for these features: 'comet-like' tails, bridges, plumes, streams and edges. In none of the cases considered do the initial cool compact cores of the primary and the secondary get destroyed during the course of the mergers. Instead, the two remnant cores eventually combine to form a new core that, depending on the final mass of the remnant, can have a greater cooling efficiency than either of its progenitors. We quantify the evolving morphology of our mergers using centroid variance, power ratios and offset between the X-ray and the projected mass maps. We find that the centroid variance best captures the dynamical state of the cluster. It also provides an excellent indicator of how far the system is from virial and hydrostatic equilibrium. Placing the system at z = 0.1, we find that all easily identified observable traces of the secondary disappear from a simulated 50-ks Chandra image following the second pericentric passage. The system, however, takes an additional ∼2 Gyr to relax and virialize. Observationally, the only reliable indicator of a system in this state is the smoothness of its X-ray surface brightness isophotes, not temperature fluctuations. Temperature fluctuations at the level of ΔT/T ∼ 20 per cent, can persist in the final systems well past the point of virialization, suggesting that the existence of temperature fluctuations, in and of themselves, does not necessarily indicate a disturbed or unrelaxed system.
- Publication type
- Journal article
- Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, Vol. 373, no. 3 (Dec 2006), pp. 881-905
- Publication year
- Wiley-Blackwell Publishing
- Publisher URL
- Copyright © 2006 The authors. Journal copyright © 2006 Royal Astronomical Society. The accepted manuscript of the paper is reproduced here in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher. The definitive publication is available at www.interscience.wiley.com.