Probing the large-scale velocity field with clusters of galaxies

Neta A. Bahcall, Renyue Cen, Mirt Gramann

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22 Scopus citations


What is the role of clusters of galaxies in probing the large-scale velocity field of the universe? We investigate the distribution of peculiar velocities of clusters of galaxies in the popular low-density (Ω = 0.3) flat cold dark matter (CDM) cosmological model, which best fits many large-scale structure observations. An Ω = 1 CDM model is also studied for comparison. We find that clusters of galaxies are efficient tracers of the large-scale velocity field. The clusters exhibit a Maxwellian distribution of peculiar velocities, as expected from Gaussian initial density fluctuations. The cluster three-dimensional velocity distribution for the Ω = 0.3 model peaks at υ ∼ 400 km s-1 and extends to high velocities of υ ∼ 1200 km s-1. The rms peculiar velocity of the clusters is 440 km s-1. Approximately 10% of all model clusters move with high peculiar velocities υ ≥ 700 km s-1. The observed velocity distribution of clusters of galaxies is compared with the predictions from cosmological models. The observed data exhibit a larger velocity tail than seen in the model simulations; however, due to the large observational uncertainties, the data are consistent at a ∼ 3 σ level with the model predictions, and with a Gaussian initial density field. The large peculiar velocities reported for some clusters of galaxies (υ ≳ 3000 km s-1) are likely to be overestimated, if the current model is viable.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)L13-L16
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1 PART 2
StatePublished - Jul 20 1994

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • Cosmology: theory
  • Galaxies: clustering


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