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Role of magnetic field strength and numerical resolution in simulations of the heat-flux driven buoyancy instability
By Mark J. Avara, Christopher Reynolds, Tamara Bogdanović
Published in The Astrophysical Journal 773, 171 (Tuesday, August 6, 2013)


The role played by magnetic fields in the intracluster medium (ICM) of galaxy clusters is complex. The weakly collisional nature of the ICM leads to thermal conduction that is channeled along field lines. This anisotropic heat conduction profoundly changes the instabilities of the ICM atmosphere, with convective stabilities being driven by temperature gradients of either sign. Here, we employ the Athena magnetohydrodynamic code to investigate the local non-linear behavior of the heat-flux-driven buoyancy instability (HBI) relevant in the cores of cooling-core clusters where the temperature increases with radius. We study a grid of two-dimensional simulations that span a large range of initial magnetic field strengths and numerical resolutions. For very weak initial fields, we recover the previously known result that the HBI wraps the field in the horizontal direction, thereby shutting off the heat flux. However, we find that simulations that begin with intermediate initial field strengths have a qualitatively different behavior, forming HBI-stable filaments that resist field-line wrapping and enable sustained vertical conductive heat flux at a level of 10%-25% of the Spitzer value. While astrophysical conclusions regarding the role of conduction in cooling cores require detailed global models, our local study proves that systems dominated by the HBI do not necessarily quench the conductive heat flux.