The magnetothermal instability in the intracluster medium

Ian J. Parrish, James McLellan Stone, Nicole Lemaster

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations


The electron mean free path in the intracluster medium (ICM) of galaxy clusters is much larger than the gyroradius; thus, heat is transported anisotropically along magnetic field lines. We show that the intracluster medium is unstable to the magnetothermal instability (MTI) where the temperature declines with radius using MHD simulations with anisotropic thermal conduction .Asa result of the MTI, we find that the temperature profile of the ICM can be substantially modified on timescales of several billion years, while the magnetic field is amplified by dynamo action up to more than 50 times the original energy. We also show that the instability drives field lines to become preferentially radial, leading to conduction that is a highly efficient fraction of the Spitzer conductivity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)905-917
Number of pages13
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 1 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • Convection
  • Galaxies: clusters: general
  • Instabilities
  • MHD
  • Plasmas
  • X-rays: galaxies: clusters


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