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Untangling cosmic collisions: a study of particle acceleration and magnetic fields in merging galaxy clusters

On the largest scale, the Universe resembles a cosmic spiderweb. Most galaxies coexist in small groups within the threads of this web. At the nodes of the threads are enormous groups of galaxies forming the largest structures in the universe still held together by gravity: clusters of galaxies.

E. Osinga
01 november 2023
Thesis in Leiden Repository

Clusters of galaxies consist of thousands of galaxies, although the galaxies constitute only a few per cent of the total cluster mass. The majority of the (non-dark) mass of a cluster is in a hot and dilute gas that resides in the space between galaxies and is permeated by magnetic fields. Clusters grow by collisions with other clusters, shocking and heating the gas causing amplification of magnetic fields and acceleration of particles to near the speed of light. This makes clusters a source of radio synchrotron radiation.This thesis investigates the particle acceleration process and the magnetic fields of merging clusters using the LOFAR and VLA radio telescopes. The thesis presents, among other things, one of the few radio maps of clusters at ultra-low frequencies and examines clusters of lower mass than usual. Additionally, the thesis includes observations of a sample of over a hundred clusters to statistically determine the properties of the magnetic field in clusters in a novel way.

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