Jets from MRC 0600-399 bent by magnetic fields in the cluster Abell 3376

Nature. 2021 May;593(7857):47-50. doi: 10.1038/s41586-021-03434-1. Epub 2021 May 5.


Galaxy clusters are known to harbour magnetic fields, the nature of which remains unresolved. Intra-cluster magnetic fields can be observed at the density contact discontinuity formed by cool and dense plasma running into hot ambient plasma1,2, and the discontinuity exists3 near the second-brightest galaxy4, MRC 0600-399, in the merging galaxy cluster Abell 3376 (redshift 0.0461). Elongated X-ray emission in the east-west direction shows a comet-like structure that reaches the megaparsec scale5. Previous radio observations6,7 detected the bent jets from MRC 0600-399, moving in same direction as the sub-cluster, against ram pressure. Here we report radio8,9 observations of MRC 0600-399 that have 3.4 and 11 times higher resolution and sensitivity, respectively, than the previous results6. In contrast to typical jets10,11, MRC 0600-399 shows a 90-degree bend at the contact discontinuity, and the collimated jets extend over 100 kiloparsecs from the point of the bend. We see diffuse, elongated emission that we name 'double-scythe' structures. The spectral index flattens downstream of the bend point, indicating cosmic-ray reacceleration. High-resolution numerical simulations reveal that the ordered magnetic field along the discontinuity has an important role in the change of jet direction. The morphology of the double-scythe jets is consistent with the simulations. Our results provide insights into the effect of magnetic fields on the evolution of the member galaxies and intra-cluster medium of galaxy clusters.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't