Revived Fossil Plasma Sources in Galaxy Clusters

S. Mandal, H. T. Intema, R. J. van Weeren, T. W. Shimwell, A. Botteon, G. Brunetti, F. de Gasperin, M. Brüggen, G. Di Gennaro, R. Kraft, H. J. A. Röttgering, M. Hardcastle, C. Tasse

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It is well established that particle acceleration by shocks and turbulence in the intra-cluster medium can produce cluster-scale synchrotron emitting sources. However, the detailed physics of these particle acceleration processes is still not well understood. One of the main open questions is the role of fossil relativistic electrons that have been deposited in the intracluster medium (ICM) by radio galaxies. These synchrotron-emitting electrons are very difficult to study as their radiative lifetime is only tens of Myr at gigahertz frequencies, and they are therefore a relatively unexplored population. Despite the typical steep radio spectrum due to synchrotron losses, these fossil electrons are barely visible even at radio frequencies well below the gigahertz level. However, when a pocket of fossil radio plasma is compressed, it boosts the visibility at sub-gigahertz frequencies, creating what are known as radio phoenices. This compression can be the result of bulk motion and shocks in the ICM due to merger activity. In this paper we demonstrate the discovery potential of low-frequency radio sky surveys to find and study revived fossil plasma sources in galaxy clusters. We used the 150 MHz TIFR GMRT Sky Survey and the 1.4 GHz NVSS sky survey to identify candidate radio phoenices. A subset of three candidates was studied in detail using deep multi-band radio observations (LOFAR and GMRT), X-ray obserations (Chandra or XMM-Newton), and archival optical observations. Two of the three sources are new discoveries. Using these observations, we identified common observational properties (radio morphology, ultra-steep spectrum, X-ray luminosity, dynamical state) that will enable us to identify this class of sources more easily, and will help us to understand the physical origin of these sources.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberA4
Number of pages11
JournalAstronomy & Astrophysics
Early online date28 Jan 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 28 Jan 2020


  • Galaxies: clusters: individual: Abell 2048
  • Galaxies: clusters: individual: Abell 2593
  • Galaxies: clusters: individual: SDSS-C4-DR3-3088
  • Galaxies: clusters: intracluster medium
  • Radiation mechanisms: non-thermal
  • X-rays: galaxies: clusters


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