The discovery of diffuse steep spectrum sources in Abell 2256
Leiden Observatory, Leiden University, PO Box 9513, 2300 RA Leiden, The Netherlands e-mail: email@example.com
2 Naval Research Laboratory, 4555 Overlook Avenue SW, Washington D. C. 20375 and Interferometrics, Inc., 13454 Sunrise Valley Drive No. 240, Herndon, VA 20171, USA
Accepted: 16 October 2009
Context. Hierarchical galaxy formation models indicate that during their lifetime galaxy clusters undergo several mergers. An example of such a merging cluster is Abell 2256. Here we report on the discovery of three diffuse radio sources in the periphery of Abell 2256, using the Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (GMRT).
Aims. The aim of the observations was to search for diffuse ultra-steep spectrum radio sources within the galaxy cluster Abell 2256.
Methods. We have carried out GMRT 325 MHz radio continuum observations of Abell 2256. V, R and I band images of the cluster were taken with the 4.2 m William Herschel Telescope (WHT).
Results. We have discovered three diffuse elongated radio sources located about 1 Mpc from the cluster center. Two are located to the west of the cluster center, and one to the southeast. The sources have a measured physical extent of 170, 140 and 240 kpc, respectively. The two western sources are also visible in deep low-resolution 115–165 MHz Westerbork Synthesis Radio Telescope (WSRT) images, although they are blended into a single source. For the combined emission of the blended source we find an extreme spectral index (α) of between 140 and 351 MHz. The extremely steep spectral index suggests these two sources are most likely the result of adiabatic compression of fossil radio plasma due to merger shocks. For the source to the southeast, we find that between 1369 and 325 MHz. We did not find any clear optical counterparts to the radio sources in the WHT images.
Conclusions. The discovery of the steep spectrum sources implies the existence of a population of faint diffuse radio sources in (merging) clusters with such steep spectra that they have gone unnoticed in higher frequency (1 GHz) observations. Simply considering the timescales related to the AGN activity, synchrotron losses, and the presence of shocks, we find that most massive clusters should possess similar sources. An exciting possibility therefore is that such sources will determine the general appearance of clusters in low-frequency high resolution radio maps as will be produced by for example LOFAR or LWA.
Key words: radio continuum: general / galaxies: clusters: individual: Abell 2256 / large-scale structure of Universe
© ESO, 2009