Published in The Astronomy and Astrophysics Review, p. 11, 2009.
astro-ph/0907.4277

For a PDF version of the article, click here.

X-RAY SPECTROSCOPY OF GALAXY CLUSTERS: STUDYING ASTROPHYSICAL PROCESSES IN THE LARGEST CELESTIAL LABORATORIES

H. Böhringer 1 and Norbert Werner 2


1 Max-Planck-Institut für extraterrestrische Physik
D-85748 Garching, Germany
Tel.: +49 89 30000 3347
Fax: +49 89 30000 3569
hxb@mpe.mpg.de
2 Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology
Stanford University
452 Lomita Mall, Stanford, CA 94305, USA


Abstract. Galaxy clusters, the largest clearly defined objects in our Universe, are ideal laboratories to study in detail the cosmic evolution of the intergalactic intracluster medium (ICM) and the cluster galaxy population. For the ICM, which is heated to X-ray radiating temperatures, X-ray spectroscopy is the most important tool to obtain insight into the structure and astrophysics of galaxy clusters. The ICM is also the hottest plasma that can be well studied under thermal equilibrium conditions.

In this review we recall the basic principles of the interpretation of X-ray spectra from a hot, tenuous plasma and we illustrate the wide range of scientific applications of X-ray spectroscopy. The determination of galaxy cluster masses, the most important prerequisite for using clusters in cosmological studies, rest crucially on a precise spectroscopic determination of the ICM temperature distribution. The study of the thermal structure of the ICM provides a very interesting fossil record of the energy release during galaxy formation and evolution, giving important constraints on galaxy formation models. The temperature and pressure distribution of the ICM gives us important insight into the process of galaxy cluster merging and the dissipation of the merger energy in form of turbulent motion. Cooling cores in the centers of about half of the cluster population are interesting laboratories to investigate the interplay between gas cooling, star- and black hole formation and energy feedback, which is diagnosed by means of X-ray spectroscopy. The element abundances deduced from X-ray spectra of the ICM provide a cosmic history record of the contribution of different supernovae to the nucleosynthesis of heavy elements and their spatial distribution partly reflects important transport processes in the ICM.

Some discussion of plasma diagnostics for conditions out of thermal equilibrium and an outlook on the future prospects of X-ray spectroscopic cluster studies complete our review.


Keywords: X-ray astronomy, Galaxies:clusters of galaxies, Spectroscopy: X-rays


Table of Contents

INTRODUCTION

X-RAY SPECTRA OF HOT TENUOUS PLASMA

THE STUDY OF THE THERMAL STRUCTURE OF THE INTRACLUSTER MEDIUM
Cluster Mass Determination
Fossil Record of Structure and Galaxy Formation in the ICM Thermal Structure
At and beyond the virial radius
Diagnostics of Cluster Mergers
Observational Studies of Turbulence of the ICM

AGN HEATED CLUSTER COOL CORES

WHAT CHEMICAL ABUNDANCE MEASUREMENTS TELL US
Early pioneering work on chemical abundances
Chemical enrichment in cooling core clusters
Constraining supernova models using clusters
Metallicity evolution and differences between clusters
How good are the assumptions behind the abundance measurements?

BEYOND THERMAL EQUILIBRIUM
Multiphase plasma
Shocks and non-equilibrium
Non-thermal X-ray emission from relativistic plasma

FUTURE POTENTIAL OF X-RAY SPECTROSCOPY

REFERENCES

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