Off-center collisions between clusters of galaxies

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We present numerical simulations of off-center collisions between galaxy clusters made using a new hydrodynamical code based on the piecewise-parabolic method (PPM) and an isolated multigrid potential solver. The current simulations follow only the intracluster gas. We have performed three high-resolution (256 × 1282) simulations of collisions between equal-mass clusters using a nonuniform grid with different values of the impact parameter (0, 5, and 10 times the cluster core radius). Using these simulations, we have studied the variation in equilibration time, luminosity enhancement during the collision, and structure of the merger remnant with varying impact parameter. We find that in off-center collisions the cluster cores (the inner regions where the pressure exceeds the ram pressure) behave quite differently from the clusters' outer regions. A strong, roughly ellipsoidal shock front, similar to that noted in previous simulations of head-on collisions, enables the cores to become bound to each other by dissipating their kinetic energy as heat in the surrounding gas. These cores survive well into the collision, dissipating their orbital angular momentum via spiral bow shocks. After the ellipsoidal shock has passed well outside the interaction region, the material left in its wake falls back onto the merger remnant formed through the inspirai of the cluster cores, creating a roughly spherical accretion shock. For less than one-half of a sound crossing time after the cores first interact, the total X-ray luminosity increases by a large factor; the magnitude of this increase depends sensitively on the size of the impact parameter. Observational evidence of the ongoing collision, in the form of bimodality and distortion in projected X-ray surface brightness and temperature maps, is present for one to two sound crossing times after the collision but only for special viewing angles. The remnant actually requires at least five crossing times to reach virial equilibrium. Since the sound crossing time can be as large as 1-2 Gyr, the equilibration time can thus be a substantial fraction of the age of the universe. The final merger remnant is very similar for impact parameters of 0 and 5 core radii. It possesses a roughly isothermal core with central density and temperature twice the initial values for the colliding clusters. Outside the core, the temperature drops as r"1, and the density roughly as r-3.8. The core radius shows a small increase due to shock heating during the merger. For an impact parameter of 10 core radii, the core of the remnant possesses a more flattened density profile with a steeper drop-off outside the core. In both off-center cases, the merger remnant rotates, but only for the 10 core-radius case does this appear to have an effect on the structure of the remnant.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)670-692
Number of pages23
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2 PART I
StatePublished - 1998
Externally publishedYes


  • Galaxies: Clusters: General
  • Hydrodynamics
  • Intergalactic medium
  • Methods: Numerical
  • X-rays: Galaxies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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