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Publications (39)123.32 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: We present simulations of a radio minihalo in a galaxy cluster core with sloshing cold fronts, under the assumption that the source of the synchrotron-emitting electrons is hadronic interactions between cosmic-ray protons with the thermal intracluster gas. This is an alternative to the hypothesis where the cosmic ray electrons are reaccelerated by the intracluster turbulence, which we have discussed in an earlier work. We follow the evolution of cosmic-ray electron spectra associated with passive tracer particles, taking into account the time-dependent injection of new electrons from the hadronic interactions and energy losses along each particle's trajectory. We then simulate the radio emission from these particles. The drop in radio emission at the cold front surfaces is less prominent than that in our previous simulations, based on electron reacceleration from sloshing-induced turbulence, where the emission is definitively confined to the regions within cold fronts. The result is that the emission is overall more spatially extended than found in some observed minihalos. We also explore spectral effects induced by the change of physical conditions in the ICM. Rapid changes in magnetic field strength are expected to produce radio spectra steeper than those calculated assuming stationary conditions, but we find this effect is marginal, with differences in the synchrotron spectral index $\Delta{\alpha}$ < 0.15 between $\nu\sim$ 300-1400 MHz and $\Delta{\alpha}$ < 0.25 between $\nu\sim$ 60-153 MHz.
    03/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: We present new deep, high-resolution radio images of the diffuse minihalo in the cool core of the galaxy cluster RX ,J1720.1+2638. The images have been obtained with the Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope at 317, 617 and 1280 MHz and with the Very Large Array at 1.5, 4.9 and 8.4 GHz, with angular resolutions ranging from 1" to 10". This represents the best radio spectral and imaging dataset for any minihalo. Most of the radio flux of the minihalo arises from a bright central component with a maximum radius of ~80 kpc. A fainter tail of emission extends out from the central component to form a spiral-shaped structure with a length of ~230 kpc, seen at frequencies 1.5 GHz and below. We observe steepening of the total radio spectrum of the minihalo at high frequencies. Furthermore, a spectral index image shows that the spectrum of the diffuse emission steepens with the increasing distance along the tail. A striking spatial correlation is observed between the minihalo emission and two cold fronts visible in the Chandra X-ray image of this cool core. These cold fronts confine the minihalo, as also seen in numerical simulations of minihalo formation by sloshing-induced turbulence. All these observations provide support to the hypothesis that the radio emitting electrons in cluster cool cores are produced by turbulent reacceleration.
    03/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: We outline the science case for extended radio emission and polarization in galaxy clusters which would be a scientifically important area of research for an upcoming Jansky Very Large Array Sky Survey. The survey would provide a major contribution in three key areas of the physics of clusters: 1) the active galactic nucleus population and the impact of feedback on the evolution of the intra-cluster medium, 2) the origin and evolution of diffuse cluster radio sources to probe the physics of mergers with implications for cosmology, and 3) the origin and role of magnetic fields in the ICM and in large scale structures. Considering all three areas, a survey must have sufficient spatial resolution to study the tailed galaxies which trace the cluster weather as well as the radio lobes driving energy into the cluster from the central AGN. The survey must also have sensitivity to low surface brightness emission and large angular scales to probe radio halos and relics as well as the WHIM residing in the large scale structure filaments. Finally, we note that full polarization information would be a highly valuable tool to probe a number of cluster-related issues. Due to the general steep spectral index of the emission we consider the survey is best suited to this science when conducted in P, L, or S bands. We conclude that the choices of S Band + D Configuration, L Band + C Configuration, and P Band + B Configuration offer optimal resolutions for constraining galactic interactions and feedback in cluster environments, while still probing large scale structure and the bulk cluster environment itself. While the push to probe higher redshifts and lower mass limits strongly favors a narrow and deep (or even targeted) survey strategy, we note that a wide survey covering roughly 1/4-2/3 of the sky will have significant scientific return, discovery potential, and archival value.
    01/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: We present results on 12 X-ray bright clusters observed at 1.4 GHz with the Green Bank Telescope. After subtraction of point sources, we reach a median (best) 1-sigma noise level of 0.01 (0.006) microJy/sq. arcsec, and find a significant excess of diffuse, low surface brightness emission in 11 of 12 clusters. We present initial 1.4 GHz Very Large Array results on Abell 2319. We find: (a) four new detections tentatively classified as two halos (A2065, A2069) and two relics (A2067, A2073); (b) the first detection of the radio halo in A2061 at 1.4 GHz, making it a possible ultra-steep spectrum halo (alpha ~ 1.8); (c) a ~2 Mpc radio halo in the sloshing, minor-merger cluster A2142; (d) a >2x increase of the giant radio halo extent and luminosity in A2319; (e) a ~7x increase to the integrated radio flux and >4x increase to the observed extent of the peripheral, polarized radio relic in A1367 to ~600 kpc; (f) significant excess emission of ambiguous nature in three clusters. Our radio halo detections agree with the well-known X-ray/radio luminosity correlation, but are larger and fainter than expected. The volume averaged synchrotron emissivities are 1-2 orders of magnitude below the previous characteristic values. Some of the halo-like detections may represent previously unseen, very low surface brightness emission or blends of shock structures and sub-Mpc scale turbulent regions. Four of the five tentative halos contain one or more X-ray cold fronts, suggesting a possible connection between gas sloshing and particle acceleration on large scales. We see evidence for a possible inter-cluster filament between A2061 and A2067. For our faintest detections, we note the possibility of residual contamination from faint radio galaxies. We also quantify the sensitivity of the NVSS to extended emission as a function of angular size.[abridged]
    The Astrophysical Journal 11/2013; 779(2). · 6.73 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We present the first high resolution MHD simulation of cosmic-ray electron reacceleration by turbulence in cluster mergers. We use an idealised model for cluster mergers, combined with a numerical model for the injection, cooling and reacceleration of cosmic-ray electrons, to investigate the evolution of cluster scale radio emission in these objects. In line with theoretical expectations, we for the first time, show in a simulation that reacceleration of CRe has the potential to reproduce key observables of radio halos. In particular, we show that clusters evolve being radio loud or radio quiet, depending on their evolutionary stage during the merger. We thus recover the observed transient nature of radio halos. In the simulation the diffuse emission traces the complex interplay between spatial distribution of turbulence injected by the halo infall and the spatial distribution of the seed electrons to reaccelerate. During the formation and evolution of the halo the synchrotron emission spectra show the observed variety: from power-laws with spectral index of 1 to 1.3 to curved and ultra-steep spectra with index $> 1.5$.
    Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 11/2012; 429(4). · 5.52 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We performed GMRT low frequency observations of the radio halos, relics and new candidates belonging to the GMRT Radio Halo Cluster Sample first observed at 610 MHz. High sensitivity imaging was performed using the GMRT at 325 MHz and 240 MHz. The properties of the diffuse emission in each cluster were compared to our 610 MHz images and/or literature information available at other frequencies, in order to derive the integrated spectra over a wide frequency range.Beyond the classical radio halos, whose spectral index $\alpha$ is in the range $\sim1.2\div1.3$ (S$\propto\nu^{-\alpha}$), we found sources with $\alpha\sim1.6\div1.9$. This result supports the idea that the spectra of the radiating particles in radio halos is not universal, and that inefficient mechanisms of particle acceleration are responsible for their origin. We also found a variety of brightness distributions, i.e. centrally peaked as well as clumpy halos. Even though the thermal and relativistic plasma tend to occupy the same cluster volume, in some cases a positional shift between the radio and X-ray peaks of emission is evident. Our observations also revealed the existence of diffuse cluster sources which cannot be easily classified either as halos or relics. New candidate relics were found in A1300 and in A1682, and in some clusters "bridges" of radio emission have been detected, connecting the relic and radio halo emission. Combining our new data with literature information, we derived the LogL$_{\rm X}$-LogP$_{\rm 325 MHz}$ correlation for radio halos, and investigated the possible trend of the spectral index of radio halos with the temperature of the intracluster medium.
    10/2012;
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    ABSTRACT: In the lead-up to the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project, several next-generation radio telescopes and upgrades are already being built around the world. These include APERTIF (The Netherlands), ASKAP (Australia), eMERLIN (UK), VLA (USA), e-EVN (based in Europe), LOFAR (The Netherlands), Meerkat (South Africa), and the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA). Each of these new instruments has different strengths, and coordination of surveys between them can help maximise the science from each of them. A radio continuum survey is being planned on each of them with the primary science objective of understanding the formation and evolution of galaxies over cosmic time, and the cosmological parameters and large-scale structures which drive it. In pursuit of this objective, the different teams are developing a variety of new techniques, and refining existing ones. Here we describe these projects, their science goals, and the technical challenges which are being addressed to maximise the science return.
    10/2012;
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    ABSTRACT: Deep radio observations of galaxy clusters have revealed the existence of diffuse radio sources related to the presence of relativistic electrons and weak magnetic fields in the intracluster volume. The role played by this non-thermal intracluster component on the thermodynamical evolution of galaxy clusters is debated, with important implications for cosmological and astrophysical studies of the largest gravitationally bound structures of the Universe. The low surface brightness and steep spectra of diffuse cluster radio sources make them more easily detectable at low-frequencies. LOFAR is the first instrument able to detect diffuse radio emission in hundreds of massive galaxy clusters up to their formation epoch. We present the first observations of clusters imaged by LOFAR and the huge perspectives opened by this instrument for non-thermal cluster studies.
    10/2012;
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    ABSTRACT: Giant radio halos (RH) are Mpc-scale synchrotron sources detected in a significant fraction of massive and merging galaxy clusters.Their statistical properties can be used to discriminate among various models for their origin. Theoretical predictions are important as new radio telescopes are about to begin to survey the sky at low and high frequencies with unprecedented sensitivity. We carry out Monte Carlo simulations to model the formation and evolution of RH in a cosmological framework by assuming that RH are either generated in turbulent merging clusters, or are purely hadronic sources generated in more relaxed clusters, "off-state" halos. The models predict that the luminosity function of RH at high radio luminosities is dominated by the contribution of RH generated in turbulent clusters. The generation of these RH becomes less efficient in less massive systems causing a flattening of the luminosity function at lower luminosities. This flattening is compensated by the contribution of "off-state" RH that dominate at lower luminosities. By restricting to clusters at z<0.6, we show that the planned EMU+WODAN surveys at 1.4 GHz have the potential to detect up to ~200 RH, increasing their number by one order of magnitude. A fraction of these sources will be "off-state" RH that should be found at flux level < 10 mJy, presently accessible only to deep pointed observations. We also explore the synergy between the Tier 1 LOFAR survey at 150 MHz and the EMU+WODAN surveys at 1.4 GHz. We predict a larger number of RH in the LOFAR survey due to the high LOFAR sensitivity, but also due to the existence of RH with very steep spectrum that glow up preferentially at lower frequencies. These RH are only predicted in the framework of turbulent re-acceleration models and should not have counterparts in the EMU+WODAN surveys, thus the combination of the two surveys will test theoretical models.
    Astronomy and Astrophysics 10/2012; · 5.08 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We combine all available information about the spectral shape and morphology of the radio halo of the Coma cluster with the gamma-ray upper limits obtained by the Fermi-LAT and with the magnetic field strength derived from Faraday rotation measures (RM). We explore the possibility that the radio halo is due to synchrotron emission of secondary electrons generated via p-p collisions in the intra-cluster-medium (ICM). First we investigate the case of pure secondary models. We use the observed spatial distribution of the halo's radio brightness to constrain the amount of cosmic rays (CRs) and their spatial distribution in the cluster that are required by the model. Under the canonical assumption that the spectrum of CRs is a power-law in momentum and that the spectrum of secondaries is stationary, we find that the combination of the steep spectrum of CRs necessary to explain the spectrum of the halo and their very broad spatial distribution (and large energy density) result in a gamma-ray emission in excess of present limits, unless the cluster magnetic field is sufficiently large. However such a field appears inconsistent with constraints from RM. Second we investigate more complex models based on secondary particles in which CR protons and their secondaries are all reaccelerated by MHD turbulence. We show that under these conditions it is possible to reproduce the radio data and to predict gamma-rays in agreement with the Fermi-LAT limits without tension with constraints on the cluster magnetic field. Reacceleration of secondaries by MHD turbulence also requires a spatial distribution of CRs much flatter than that of the ICM, if both the turbulent and magnetic field energy densities scale with that of the ICM. However broader spatial distributions of turbulence and field and/or the reacceleration of additional primary electrons in the ICM greatly alleviate this requirement.
    Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 07/2012; 426(2). · 5.52 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Abell 2256 is one of the best known examples of a galaxy cluster hosting large-scale diffuse radio emission that is unrelated to individual galaxies. It contains both a giant radio halo and a relic, as well as a number of head-tail sources and smaller diffuse steep-spectrum radio sources. The origin of radio halos and relics is still being debated, but over the last years it has become clear that the presence of these radio sources is closely related to galaxy cluster merger events. Here we present the results from the first LOFAR Low band antenna (LBA) observations of Abell 2256 between 18 and 67 MHz. To our knowledge, the image presented in this paper at 63 MHz is the deepest ever obtained at frequencies below 100 MHz in general. Both the radio halo and the giant relic are detected in the image at 63 MHz, and the diffuse radio emission remains visible at frequencies as low as 20 MHz. The observations confirm the presence of a previously claimed ultra-steep spectrum source to the west of the cluster center with a spectral index of -2.3 \pm 0.4 between 63 and 153 MHz. The steep spectrum suggests that this source is an old part of a head-tail radio source in the cluster. For the radio relic we find an integrated spectral index of -0.81 \pm 0.03, after removing the flux contribution from the other sources. This is relatively flat which could indicate that the efficiency of particle acceleration at the shock substantially changed in the last \sim 0.1 Gyr due to an increase of the shock Mach number. In an alternative scenario, particles are re-accelerated by some mechanism in the downstream region of the shock, resulting in the relatively flat integrated radio spectrum. In the radio halo region we find indications of low-frequency spectral steepening which may suggest that relativistic particles are accelerated in a rather inhomogeneous turbulent region.
    Astronomy and Astrophysics 05/2012; 543(A2256):1-13. · 5.08 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: A number of relaxed, cool-core galaxy clusters exhibit diffuse, steep-spectrum radio sources in their central regions, known as radio mini-halos. It has been proposed that the relativistic electrons responsible for the emission have been reaccelerated by turbulence generated by the sloshing of the cool core gas. We present a high-resolution MHD simulation of gas sloshing in a galaxy cluster coupled with subgrid simulations of relativistic electron acceleration to test this hypothesis. Our simulation shows that the sloshing motions generate turbulence on the order of $\delta{v} \sim$ 50-200 km s$^{-1}$ on spatial scales of $\sim$50-100 kpc and below in the cool core region within the envelope of the sloshing cold fronts, whereas outside the cold fronts, there is negligible turbulence. This turbulence is potentially strong enough to reaccelerate relativistic electron seeds (with initial $\gamma \sim 100-500$) to $\gamma \sim 10^4$ via damping of magnetosonic waves and non-resonant compression. The seed electrons could remain in the cluster from, e.g., past AGN activity. In combination with the magnetic field amplification in the core, these electrons then produce diffuse radio synchrotron emission that is coincident with the region bounded by the sloshing cold fronts, as indeed observed in X-rays and the radio. The result holds for different initial spatial distributions of preexisting relativistic electrons. The power and the steep spectral index ($\alpha \approx 1-2$) of the resulting radio emission are consistent with observations of minihalos, though the theoretical uncertainties of the acceleration mechanisms are high. We also produce simulated maps of inverse-Compton hard X-ray emission from the same population of relativistic electrons.
    The Astrophysical Journal 03/2012; 762(2). · 6.73 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We report the discovery of a giant radio halo in the galaxy cluster RXC J1514.9-1523 at z=0.22 with a relatively low X-ray luminosity, $L_{X \, [0.1-2.4 \rm \, kev]} \sim 7 \times 10^{44}$ erg s$^{-1}$. This faint, diffuse radio source is detected with the Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope at 327 MHz. The source is barely detected at 1.4 GHz in a NVSS pointing that we have reanalyzed. The integrated radio spectrum of the halo is quite steep, with a slope \alpha = 1.6 between 327 MHz and 1.4 GHz. While giant radio halos are common in more X-ray luminous cluster mergers, there is a less than 10% probability to detect a halo in systems with $L_X \ltsim 8 \times 10^{44}$ erg s$^{-1}$. The detection of a new giant halo in this borderline luminosity regime can be particularly useful for discriminating between the competing theories for the origin of ultrarelativistic electrons in clusters. Furthermore, if our steep radio spectral index is confirmed by future deeper radio observations, this cluster would provide another example of the recently discovered population of ultra-steep spectrum radio halos, predicted by the model in which the cluster cosmic ray electrons are produced by turbulent reacceleration.
    Astronomy and Astrophysics 09/2011; 534. · 5.08 Impact Factor
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    Shea Brown, Andrew Emerick, Lawrence Rudnick, Gianfranco Brunetti
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    ABSTRACT: We derive the best characterization to date of the properties of radio quiescent massive galaxy clusters through a statistical analysis of their average synchrotron emissivity. We stacked 105 radio images of clusters from the 843 MHz SUMSS survey, all with X-ray luminosities greater than 1.0E+44 erg/s and redshifts z < 0.2, after removing point-source contamination and rescaling to a common physical size. Each stacked cluster individually shows no significant large-scale diffuse radio emission at current sensitivity levels. Stacking of sub-samples leads to the following results: (i) clusters with L_{X} > 3.0E+44 erg/s show a 6-sigma detection of Mpc-scale diffuse emission with a 1.4 GHz luminosity of 2.4\pm0.4 x 1.0E+23 W/Hz. This is 1.5-2 times lower than the upper limits for radio quiescent clusters from the GMRT Radio Halo Survey (Venturi et al. 2008), and is the first independent confirmation of radio halo bi-modality; (ii) clusters with low X-ray concentrations have a mean radio luminosity (2.6\pm0.6 x 1.0E+23 W/Hz) that is at least twice that of high X-ray concentration clusters, and (iii) both of these detections are likely close to the low-level "off-state" of GRHs in most or all luminous X-ray clusters, and not due to contributions from a much smaller subset of "on-state" GRHs following the radio/X-ray luminosity correlation. Upcoming deep radio surveys will conclusively distinguish between these two options. We briefly discuss possible origins for the "off-state" emission and its implications for magnetic fields in most or all luminous X-ray clusters.
    The Astrophysical Journal Letters 09/2011; 740(1). · 6.35 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: At very low frequencies, the new pan-European radio telescope LOFAR is opening the last unexplored window of the electromagnetic spectrum for astrophysical studies. The revolutionary APERTIF phased arrays that are about to be installed on the Westerbork radio telescope (WSRT) will dramatically increase the survey speed for the WSRT. Combined surveys with these two facilities will deeply chart the northern sky over almost two decades in radio frequency from \sim 15 up to 1400 MHz. Here we briefly describe some of the capabilities of these new facilities and what radio surveys are planned to study fundamental issues related the formation and evolution of galaxies and clusters of galaxies. In the second part we briefly review some recent observational results directly showing that diffuse radio emission in clusters traces shocks due to cluster mergers. As these diffuse radio sources are relatively bright at low frequencies, LOFAR should be able to detect thousands of such sources up to the epoch of cluster formation. This will allow addressing many question about the origin and evolution of shocks and magnetic fields in clusters. At the end we briefly review some of the first and very preliminary LOFAR results on clusters.
    07/2011;
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    ABSTRACT: At very low frequencies, the new pan-European radio telescope LOFAR is opening the last unexplored window of the electromagnetic spectrum for astrophysical studies. The revolutionary APERTIFphased arrays that are about to be installed on the Westerbork radio telescope (WSRT) will dramatically increase the survey speed for the WSRT. Combined surveys with these two facilities will deeply chart the northern sky over almost two decades in radio frequency from $sim$15 up to 1400 MHz. Here we briefly describe some of the capabilities of these new facilities and what radio surveys are planned to study fun-damental issues related to the formation and evolution of galaxies and clusters of galaxies. In the second part we briefly review some recent observational results directly showing that diffuse radio emission in clusters traces shocks due to cluster mergers. As these diffuse radio sources are relatively bright at low frequencies, LOFAR should be able to detect thousands of such sources up to the epoch of cluster formation. This will allow addressing many question about the origin and evolution of shocks and magnetic fields in clusters. At the end we briefly review some of the first and very preliminary LOFAR results on clusters.
    Journal of Astrophysics and Astronomy 07/2011; 32:557-566. · 0.34 Impact Factor
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    John ZuHone, Maxim Markevitch, Gianfranco Brunetti
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    ABSTRACT: Radio mini-halos are diffuse, steep-spectrum synchrotron sources associated with relaxed clusters of galaxies. Observations of some mini-halo sources indicate a correlation between the radio emission and the X-ray signature of gas sloshing, "cold fronts." Some authors have suggested turbulence associated with the sloshing motions reaccelerate relativistic electrons, resulting in emission associated with the fronts. We present MHD simulations of core gas sloshing in a galaxy cluster, where we measure the turbulence created by these motions and employ passive tracer particles to act as relativistic electrons that may be accelerated by such turbulence. Our preliminary results support such a link between sloshing motions and particle reacceleration.
    01/2011;
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    ABSTRACT: We present new Chandra X-ray and Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (GMRT) radio observations of the nearby merging galaxy cluster A754. Our X-ray data confirm the presence of a shock front by obtaining the first direct measurement of a gas-temperature jump across the X-ray brightness edge previously seen in the imaging data. A754 is only the fourth galaxy cluster with confirmed merger shock fronts, and it has the weakest shock of those, with a Mach number, M = 1.57+0.16 –0.12. In our new GMRT observation at 330 MHz, we find that the previously known centrally located radio halo extends eastward to the position of the shock. The X-ray shock front also coincides with the position of a radio relic previously observed at 74 MHz. The radio spectrum of the post-shock region, using our radio data and the earlier results at 74 MHz and 1.4 GHz, is very steep. We argue that acceleration of electrons at the shock front directly from thermal to ultrarelativistic energies is problematic due to energy arguments, while reacceleration of pre-existing relativistic electrons is more plausible.
    The Astrophysical Journal 01/2011; 728(2):82. · 6.73 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We present new Chandra X-ray and Giant Meterwave Radio Telescope (GMRT) radio observations of the nearby merging galaxy cluster Abell 754. Our X-ray data confirm the presence of a shock front by obtaining the first direct measurement of a gas temperature jump across the X-ray brightness edge previously seen in the imaging data. A754 is only the fourth galaxy cluster with confirmed merger shock fronts, and it has the weakest shock of those, with a Mach number M=1.57+0.16-0.12. In our new GMRT observation at 330 MHz, we find that the previously-known centrally located radio halo extends eastward to the position of the shock. The X-ray shock front also coincides with the position of a radio relic previously observed at 74 MHz. The radio spectrum of the post-shock region, using our radio data and the earlier results at 74 MHz and 1.4 GHz, is very steep. We argue that acceleration of electrons at the shock front directly from thermal to ultrarelativistic energies is problematic due to energy arguments, while reacceleration of preexisting relativistic electrons is more plausible. Comment: 10 pages, 8 figures, "emulateapj" format. Submitted to ApJ
    10/2010;
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    ABSTRACT: On May 27th 2010, the Italian astronomical community learned with concern that the National Institute for Astrophysics (INAF) was going to be suppressed, and that its employees were going to be transferred to the National Research Council (CNR). It was not clear if this applied to all employees (i.e. also to researchers hired on short-term contracts), and how this was going to happen in practice. In this letter, we give a brief historical overview of INAF and present a short chronicle of the few eventful days that followed. Starting from this example, we then comment on the current situation and prospects of astronomical research in Italy. Comment: Also available at http://adoptitaastronom.altervista.org/index.html
    07/2010;