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Durham University

Department of Physics

Staff profile

Publication details for Prof Richard Massey

Bogdanovic, T., Reynolds, C.S. & Massey, R. (2011). Using Faraday rotation to probe magnetohydrodynamic instabilities in intracluster media. Astrophysical journal 731(1): 7.

Author(s) from Durham


It has recently been suggested that conduction-driven magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) instabilities may operate at all radii within an intracluster medium (ICM) and profoundly affect the structure of a cluster's magnetic field. Where MHD instabilities dominate the dynamics of an ICM, they will re-orient magnetic field lines perpendicular to the temperature gradient inside a cooling core or parallel to the temperature gradient outside it. This characteristic structure of magnetic field could be probed by measurements of polarized radio emission from background sources. Motivated by this possibility we have constructed three-dimensional models of a magnetized cooling-core cluster and calculated Faraday rotation measure (RM) maps in the plane of the sky under realistic observing conditions. We compare a scenario in which magnetic field geometry is characterized by conduction-driven MHD instabilities to that where it is determined by isotropic turbulent motions. We find that future high-sensitivity spectropolarimetric measurements of RM, such as will be enabled by the Expanded Very Large Array and Square Kilometer Array, can distinguish between these two cases with plausible exposure times. Such observations will test the existence of conduction-driven MHD instabilities in dynamically relaxed cooling-core clusters. More generally, our findings imply that observations of Faraday RM should be able to discern physical mechanisms that result in qualitatively different magnetic field topologies, without a priori knowledge about the nature of the processes.