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Journal Article

Pairs of giant shock waves (N-waves) in merging galaxy clusters


Churazov,  Eugene
High Energy Astrophysics, MPI for Astrophysics, Max Planck Society;

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Zhang, C., Churazov, E., & Zhuravleva, I. (2020). Pairs of giant shock waves (N-waves) in merging galaxy clusters. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 501(1), 1038-1045. doi:10.1093/mnras/staa3718.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0008-2295-9
When a subcluster merges with a larger galaxy cluster, a bow shock is driven ahead of the subcluster. At a later merger stage, this bow shock separates from the subcluster, becoming a ‘runaway’ shock that propagates down the steep density gradient through the cluster outskirts and approximately maintains its strength and the Mach number. Such shocks are plausible candidates for producing radio relics in the periphery of clusters. We argue that, during the same merger stage, a secondary shock is formed much closer to the main cluster centre. A close analogue of this structure is known in the usual hydrodynamics as N-waves, where the trailing part of the ‘N’ is the result of the non-linear evolution of a shock. In merging clusters, spherical geometry and stratification could further promote its development. Both the primary and the secondary shocks are the natural outcome of a single merger event and often both components of the pair should be present. However, in the radio band, the leading shock could be more prominent, while the trailing shock might conversely be more easily seen in X-rays. The latter argument implies that for some of the (trailing) shocks found in X-ray data, it might be difficult to identify their ‘partner’ leading shocks or the merging subclusters, which are farther away from the cluster centre. We argue that the Coma cluster and A2744 could be two examples in a post-merger state with such well-separated shock pairs.