A double radio halo in the close pair of galaxy clusters Abell 399 and Abell 401
INAF - Osservatorio Astronomico di Cagliari, Poggio dei Pini, Strada 54, 09012 Capoterra (CA), Italy e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
2 INAF - Istituto di Radioastronomia, via Gobetti 101, 40129 Bologna, Italy
3 Dipartimento di Astronomia, Univ. Bologna, via Ranzani 1, 40127 Bologna, Italy
Accepted: 9 November 2009
Aims. Radio halos are faint radio sources usually located at the center of merging clusters of galaxies. These diffuse radio sources are rare, having so far been found only in about 30 clusters of galaxies, suggesting that particular conditions are needed to form and maintain them. It is interesting to investigate the presence of radio halos in close pairs of interacting clusters in order to possibly clarify their origin in relation to the evolutionary state of the merger. In this work, we study the case of the close pair of galaxy clusters A399 and A401.
Methods. A401 is already known to contain a faint radio halo, while a hint of diffuse emission in A399 has been suggested based on the NVSS. To confirm this possibility, we analyzed deeper Very Large Array observations at 1.4 GHz of this cluster.
Results. We find that the central region of A399 is permeated by a diffuse low-surface brightness radio emission that we classify as a radio halo with a linear size of about 570 kpc and a central brightness of 0.3 μJy/arcsec2. Indeed, given their comparatively small projected distance of ~3 Mpc, the pair of galaxy clusters A401 and A399 can be considered as the first example of double radio halo system. The discovery of this double halo is extraordinary given the rarity of these radio sources in general and given that current X-ray data seem to suggest that the two clusters are still in a pre-merger state. Therefore, the origin of the double radio halo is likely to be attributed to the individual merging histories of each cluster separately, rather than to the result of a close encounter between the two systems.
Key words: galaxies: clusters: individual: Abell 399 / radio continuum: galaxies / galaxies: clusters: individual: Abel 401
© ESO, 2010