The intracluster medium (ICM), as a magnetized and highly ionized fluid, provides an ideal laboratory to study plasma physics under extreme conditions that cannot be achieved on Earth. NGC 1404 is a bright elliptical galaxy that is being gas stripped as it falls through the ICM of the Fornax Cluster. We use the new Chandra X-ray observations of NGC 1404 to study ICM microphysics. The interstellar medium of NGC 1404 is characterized by a sharp leading edge, 8 kpc from the Galaxy center, and a short downstream gaseous tail. Contact discontinuities are resolved on unprecedented spatial scales (0.″5 = 45 pc) due to the combination of the proximity of NGC 1404, the superb spatial resolution of Chandra, and the very deep (670 ks) exposure. At the leading edge, we observe sub-kiloparsec-scale eddies generated by Kelvin-Helmholtz instability (KHI) and put an upper limit of 5% Spitzer on the isotropic viscosity of the hot cluster plasma. We also observe mixing between the hot cluster gas and the cooler galaxy gas in the downstream stripped tail, which provides further evidence of a low viscosity plasma. The assumed ordered magnetic fields in the ICM ought to be smaller than 5 μG to allow KHI to develop. The lack of an evident magnetic draping layer just outside the contact edge is consistent with such an upper limit.
|State||Published - Jan 1 2017|
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was supported by Chandra Awards GO1-12160X and GO2-13125X issued by the Chandra X-ray Observatory Center which is operated by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory under NASA contract NAS8-03060.
© 2017. The American Astronomical Society. All rights reserved..
- X-rays: ISM
- X-rays: galaxies: clusters
- galaxies: clusters: intracluster medium
- magnetic fields
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Astronomy and Astrophysics
- Space and Planetary Science