1. European Southern Observatory, 2. Hamburg University, 3. Lancaster University, 4. Lawrence Livermore National Lab,, 5. National Centre for Radio Astrophysics, 6. Pusan National University, 7. Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, 8. Stanford University, 9. The Johns Hopkins University, 10. UNIST, 11. Universidade de So Paulo, 12. University of California, 13. University of Notre Dame, 14. Yonsei University
In a growing number of galaxy clusters elongated Mpc-size radio sources, so-called radio relics, have been found. These relics trace relativistic electrons in the intracluster medium accelerated by collisionless shocks, generated by cluster-cluster merger events. However, cluster merger shocks typically have low Mach numbers and it is therefore unclear how these weak shocks are able to accelerate particles so efficiently, as inferred from the radio luminosity of these relics. A proposed solution to resolve this apparent discrepancy is that cluster shocks re-accelerate a population of fossil relativistic electrons, instead of thermal electrons.
Here we present deep radio and Chandra X-ray observations of the merging cluster A3411-3412. This cluster is known to host a complex-shaped Mpc-size radio relic. In our new GMRT and VLA radio images of the cluster, we find a direct connection between the radio relic and a cluster radio galaxy. From the radio galaxys nucleus, a tail of radio emission "feeds" into the radio relic located about 90 kpc to its south. At the location of the relic, we find evidence for an X-ray surface brightness edge, consistent with the presence of a weak shock. Therefore, these observations show evidence that fossil relativistic electrons from active galactic nuclei are re-accelerated by weak cluster shocks.
Our study indicates that in order to understand the non-thermal component of the intracluster medium, the presence and distribution of radio galaxies needs to be taken into account, in addition to particle acceleration at shocks. Observations at low radio frequencies, in particular with LOFAR, will be key to unveiling the connections between radio relics and radio AGN, because low-frequency observations are sensitive to synchrotron emission from older fossil radio plasma.