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Examining the growth and evolution of magnetic fields in clusters of galaxies: a numerical perspective

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Title: Examining the growth and evolution of magnetic fields in clusters of galaxies: a numerical perspective
Author(s): Sutter, Paul M.
Director of Research: Ricker, Paul M.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s): Fields, Brian
Doctoral Committee Member(s): Ricker, Paul M.; Gammie, Charles; Mohr, Joseph
Department / Program: Physics
Discipline: Physics
Degree Granting Institution: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree: Ph.D.
Genre: Dissertation
Subject(s): Astrophysics Cosmology Clusters of Galaxies Radio Halos Magnetic Fields Subgrid Models FLASH code Simulation Magnetohydrodynamics Hydrodynamics Dark Matter Dark Energy N-body Numerical Adaptive Mesh Refinement Halo Finder Large-Scale Structure Active Galactic Nuclei Supermassive Black Holes
Abstract: Magnetic fields are ubiquitous in galaxy cluster atmospheres and have a variety of astrophysical and cosmological consequences. Magnetic fields can contribute to the pressure support of clusters, affect thermal conduction, and modify the evolution of bubbles driven by active galactic nuclei. However, we currently do not fully understand the origin and evolution of these fields throughout cosmic time. Furthermore, we do not have a general understanding of the relationship between magnetic field strength and topology and other cluster properties, such as mass and X-ray luminosity. We can now begin to answer some of these questions using large-scale cosmological magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) simulations of the formation of galaxy clusters including the seeding and growth of magnetic fields. Using large-scale cosmological simulations with the FLASH code combined with a simplified model of the acceleration of cosmic rays responsible for the generation of radio halos, we find that the galaxy cluster frequency distribution and expected number counts of radio halos from upcoming low-frequency sur- veys are strongly dependent on the strength of magnetic fields. Thus, a more complete understanding of the origin and evolution of magnetic fields is necessary to understand and constrain models of diffuse synchrotron emission from clusters. One favored model for generating magnetic fields is through the amplification of weak seed fields in active galactic nuclei (AGN) accretion disks and their subsequent injection into cluster atmospheres via AGN-driven jets and bubbles. However, current large-scale cosmological simulations cannot directly include the physical processes associated with the accretion and feedback processes of AGN or the seeding and merging of the associated SMBHs. Thus, we must include these effects as subgrid models. In order to carefully study the growth of magnetic fields in clusters via AGN-driven outflows, we present a systematic study of SMBH and AGN subgrid models. Using dark-matter only cosmological simulations, we find that many important quantities, such as the relationship between SMBH mass and galactic bulge velocity dispersion and the merger rate of black holes, are highly sensitive to the subgrid model assumptions of SMBHs. In addition, using MHD calculations of an isolated cluster, we find that magnetic field strengths, extent, topology, and relationship to other gas quantities such as temperature and density are also highly dependent on the chosen model of accretion and feedback. We use these systematic studies of SMBHs and AGN inform and constrain our choice of subgrid models, and we use those results to outline a fully cosmological MHD simulation to study the injection and growth of magnetic fields in clusters of galaxies. This simulation will be the first to study the birth and evolution of magnetic fields using a fully closed accretion-feedback cycle, with as few assumptions as possible and a clearer understanding of the effects of the various parameter choices.
Issue Date: 2011-08-25
Rights Information: Copyright 2011 Paul M. Sutter
Date Available in IDEALS: 2011-08-25
Date Deposited: 2011-08

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