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Department of Physics

Staff profile

Publication details for Prof Cedric Lacey

Voit, G.M., Balogh, M.L., Bower, R.G., Lacey, C.G. & Bryan, G.L. (2003). On the origin of intracluster entropy. Astrophysical journal 593(1): 272.

Author(s) from Durham


The entropy distribution of the intracluster medium and the shape of its confining potential well completely determine the X-ray properties of a relaxed cluster of galaxies, motivating us to explore the origin of intracluster entropy and to describe how it develops in terms of some simple models. We present an analytical model for smooth accretion, including both preheating and radiative cooling, that links a cluster's entropy distribution to its mass accretion history and shows that smooth accretion overproduces the entropy observed in massive clusters by a factor of ~2-3, depending on the mass accretion rate. Any inhomogeneity in the accreting gas reduces entropy production at the accretion shock; thus, smoothing of the gas accreting onto a cluster raises its entropy level. Because smooth accretion produces more entropy than hierarchical accretion, we suggest that some of the observed differences between clusters and groups may arise because preheating smooths the smaller scale lumps of gas accreting onto groups more effectively than it smooths the larger scale lumps accreting onto clusters. This effect may explain why entropy levels at the outskirts of groups are ~2-3 times larger than expected from self-similar scaling arguments. The details of how the density distribution of accreting gas affects the entropy distribution of a cluster are complex, and we suggest how to explore the relevant physics with numerical simulations.