Turbulence and Mixing in the Intracluster Medium

Academic Article


  • The intracluster medium (ICM) is stably stratified in the hydrodynamic sense with the entropy $s$ increasing outwards. However, thermal conduction along magnetic field lines fundamentally changes the stability of the ICM, leading to the "heat-flux buoyancy instability" when $dT/dr>0$ and the "magnetothermal instability" when $dT/dr<0$. The ICM is thus buoyantly unstable regardless of the signs of $dT/dr$ and $ds/dr$. On the other hand, these temperature-gradient-driven instabilities saturate by reorienting the magnetic field (perpendicular to $\hat{\bf r}$ when $dT/dr>0$ and parallel to $\hat{\bf r}$ when $dT/dr<0$), without generating sustained convection. We show that after an anisotropically conducting plasma reaches this nonlinearly stable magnetic configuration, it experiences a buoyant restoring force that resists further distortions of the magnetic field. This restoring force is analogous to the buoyant restoring force experienced by a stably stratified adiabatic plasma. We argue that in order for a driving mechanism (e.g, galaxy motions or cosmic-ray buoyancy) to overcome this restoring force and generate turbulence in the ICM, the strength of the driving must exceed a threshold, corresponding to turbulent velocities $\gtrsim 10 -100 {km/s}$. For weaker driving, the ICM remains in its nonlinearly stable magnetic configuration, and turbulent mixing is effectively absent. We discuss the implications of these findings for the turbulent diffusion of metals and heat in the ICM.
  • Authors

  • Sharma, P
  • Chandran, Benjamin
  • Quataert, E
  • Parrish, IJ
  • Heinz, Sebastian
  • Wilcots, Eric
  • Status

    Publication Date

  • 2009
  • Published In


  • astro-ph.CO
  • astro-ph.HE
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Start Page

  • 363
  • End Page

  • 370
  • Volume

  • 1201
  • Issue

  • 1