Turbulence in galaxy cluster cores: A key to cluster bimodality?

Ian J. Parrish, Eliot Quataert, Prateek Sharma

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

68 Scopus citations


We study the effects of externally imposed turbulence on the thermal properties of galaxy cluster cores, using three-dimensional numerical simulations including magnetic fields, anisotropic thermal conduction, and radiative cooling. The imposed "stirring" crudely approximates the effects of galactic wakes, waves generated by galaxies moving through the intracluster medium, and/or turbulence produced by a central active galactic nucleus. The simulated clusters exhibit a strong bimodality. Modest levels of turbulence, 100 km s-1 10% of the sound speed, suppress the heat-flux-driven buoyancy instability (HBI), resulting in an isotropically tangled magnetic field and a quasi-stable, high entropy, thermal equilibrium with no cooling catastrophe. Thermal conduction dominates the heating of the cluster core, but turbulent mixing is critical because it suppresses the HBI and (to a lesser extent) the thermal instability. Lower levels of turbulent mixing (≲100 km s-1) are insufficient to suppress the HBI, rapidly leading to a thermal runaway and a cool-core cluster. Remarkably, then, small fluctuations in the level of turbulence in galaxy cluster cores can initiate transitions between cool-core (low entropy) and non-cool-core (high entropy) states.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)L194-L198
JournalAstrophysical Journal Letters
Issue number2 PART 2
StatePublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • Galaxies: clusters: general
  • Instabilities
  • Magnetohydrodynamics (MHD)
  • Plasmas


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