Turbulence, magnetic fields, and plasma physics in clusters of galaxies

A. A. Schekochihin, S. C. Cowley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

130 Scopus citations


Observations of galaxy clusters show that the intracluster medium (ICM) is likely to be turbulent and is certainly magnetized. The properties of this magnetized turbulence are determined both by fundamental nonlinear magnetohydrodynamic interactions and by the plasma physics of the ICM, which has very low collisionality. Cluster plasma threaded by weak magnetic fields is subject to firehose and mirror instabilities. These saturate and produce fluctuations at the ion gyroscale, which can scatter particles, increasing the effective collision rate and, therefore, the effective Reynolds number of the ICM. A simple way to model this effect is proposed. The model yields a self-accelerating fluctuation dynamo whereby the field grows explosively fast, reaching the observed, dynamically important, field strength in a fraction of the cluster lifetime independent of the exact strength of the seed field. It is suggested that the saturated state of the cluster turbulence is a combination of the conventional isotropic magnetohydrodynamic turbulence, characterized by folded, direction-reversing magnetic fields and an Alfván-wave cascade at collisionless scales. An argument is proposed to constrain the reversal scale of the folded field. The picture that emerges appears to be in qualitative agreement with observations of magnetic fields in clusters.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number056501
JournalPhysics of Plasmas
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2006
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Condensed Matter Physics


Dive into the research topics of 'Turbulence, magnetic fields, and plasma physics in clusters of galaxies'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this