EDP Sciences
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Volume 430, Number 1, January IV 2005
Page(s) 19 - 38
Section Cosmology (including clusters of galaxies)
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361:20041811

A&A 430, 19-38 (2005)
DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361:20041811

Dynamical state and star formation properties of the merging galaxy cluster Abell 3921

C. Ferrari1, 2, C. Benoist1, S. Maurogordato1, A. Cappi3 and E. Slezak1

1  Laboratoire Cassiopée, CNRS/UMR 6202, Observatoire de la Côte d'Azur, BP 4229, 06304 Nice Cedex 4, France
    e-mail: Chiara.Ferrari@uibk.ac.at
2  Institut für Astrophysik, Technikerstraße 25, 6020 Innsbruck, Austria
3  INAF, Osservatorio Astronomico di Bologna, via Ranzani 1, 40127 Bologna, Italy

(Received 6 August 2004 / Accepted 31 August 2004 )

We present the analysis and results of a new VRI photometric and spectroscopic survey of the central ~ $1.8\times1.2~{\rm
Mpc}^2$ region of the galaxy cluster A3921 ( z=0.094). We detect the presence of two dominant clumps of galaxies with a mass ratio of ~5: a main cluster centred on the Brightest Cluster Galaxy (BCG) (A3921-A), and an NW sub-cluster (A3921-B) hosting the second brightest cluster galaxy. The distorted morphology of the two sub-clusters suggests that they are interacting, while the velocity distribution of 104 confirmed cluster members does not reveal strong signatures of merging. By applying a two-body dynamical formalism to the two sub-clusters of A3921, and by comparing our optical results to the X-ray analysis of A3921 based on XMM observations (Belsole et al. 2005), we conclude that A3921-B is probably tangentially traversing the main cluster along the SW/NE direction. The two sub-clusters are observed in the central phase of their merging process ( $\pm$0.3 Gyr), with a collision axis nearly perpendicular to the line of sight. Based on the spectral features of the galaxies belonging to A3921 we estimate the star formation properties of the confirmed cluster members. Substantial fractions of both emission-line (~13%) and post-star-forming objects (so called k+a's, ~16%) are detected, comparable to those measured at intermediate redshifts. Our analysis reveals a lack of bright post-star-forming objects in A3921 with respect to higher redshift clusters, while the fraction of k+a's increases towards fainter magnitudes ( $M_{R_{\rm AB}}>-20$). Similar results were obtained in the Coma cluster by Poggianti et al. (2004), but at still fainter magnitudes, suggesting that the maximum mass of actively star-forming galaxies increases with redshift ("downsizing effect"). The spatial and velocity distributions of k+a galaxies do not show significant differences to those of the passive population, and to the whole cluster. Most of these objects show relatively red colours and moderate Balmer absorption lines, which suggest that star formation has ceased $\sim $ 1-1.5 Gyr ago. Their presence is therefore difficult to relate to the on-going merging event. We find that star-forming galaxies share neither the kinematics nor the projected distribution of the passive cluster members. Moreover, most emission-line galaxies are concentrated in A3921-B and in the region between the two sub-clusters. We therefore suggest that the ongoing merger may have triggered a star-formation episode in at least a fraction of the observed emission-line galaxies.

Key words: galaxies: clusters: general -- galaxies: clusters: individual: Abell 3921 -- galaxies: distances and redshifts -- cosmology: observations

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