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Journal Article

Fast magnetic field amplification in distant galaxy clusters


Ensslin,  Torsten A.
Computational Structure Formation, MPI for Astrophysics, Max Planck Society;

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Gennaro, G. D., van Weeren, R. J., Brunetti, G., Cassano, R., Brüggen, M., Hoeft, M., et al. (2020). Fast magnetic field amplification in distant galaxy clusters. Nature Astronomy, 2020. doi:10.1038/s41550-020-01244-5.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0007-B8EF-D
In the present-day Universe, magnetic fields pervade galaxy clusters and have strengths of a few microgauss, as measured from Faraday rotation. Evidence for cluster magnetic fields is also provided by the observation of megaparsec-scale radio emission, namely radio halos and relics. These are commonly found in merging systems and are characterized by a steep radio spectrum Sν (α < −1, where Sν ∝ να and is ν the observing frequency). It is widely believed that magneto-hydrodynamical turbulence and shock waves (re-)accelerate cosmic rays and produce radio halos and relics. The origin and amplification of magnetic fields in clusters is not well understood. It has been proposed that turbulence drives a small-scale dynamo that amplifies seed magnetic fields (which are primordial and/or injected by galactic outflows, such as active galactic nuclei, starbursts or winds). At high redshift, radio halos are expected to be faint, owing to losses from inverse Compton scattering and the dimming effect with distance. Moreover, Faraday rotation measurements are difficult to obtain. If detected, distant radio halos provide an alternative tool to investigate magnetic field amplification. Here, we report Low Frequency Radio Array observations that reveal diffuse radio emission in massive clusters when the Universe was only half of its present age, with a sample occurrence fraction of about 50%. The high radio luminosities indicate that these clusters have similar magnetic field strengths to those in nearby clusters, and suggest that magnetic field amplification is fast during the first phases of cluster formation.