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When galaxy clusters collide: the impact of merger shocks on cluster gas and galaxy evolution

Promotor: Prof.dr. H.J.A. Rottgering, Co-promotor: David Sobral

A. Stroe
02 September 2015
Thesis in Leiden Repository

Galaxy clusters mainly grow through mergers with other clusters and groups. Major mergers give rise to cluster-wide traveling shocks, which can be detected at radio wavelengths as relics: elongated, diffuse synchrotron emitting areas located at the periphery of merging clusters. The 'Sausage' cluster hosts an extraordinary Mpc-wide relic, which enables us to study to study particle acceleration and the effects of shocks on cluster galaxies. We derive shock properties and the magnetic field structure for the relic. Our results indicate that particles are shock-accelerated, but turbulent re-acceleration or unusually efficient transport of particles in the downstream area are important effects. We demonstrate the feasibility of high-frequency observations of radio relics, by presenting a 16 GHz detection of the 'Sausage' relic. Halpha mapping of the cluster provides the first direct test as to whether the shock drives or prohibits star formation. We find numerous galaxies in close proximity to the radio relic which are extremely massive, metal-rich, star-forming with evidence for gas mass loss though outflows. We speculate that the complex interaction between the merger, the shock wave and gas is a fundamental driver in the evolution of cluster galaxies from gas rich spirals to gas-poor ellipticals.

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