The spectral index image of the radio halo in the cluster Abell 520 hosting a famous bow shock

Synchrotron radio emission is being detected from an increasing number of galaxy clusters. Spectral index images are a powerful tool to investigate the origin, nature, and connection of these sources with the dynamical state of the cluster. The aim of this work is to investigate the spectral index distribution of the radio halo in the galaxy cluster A520, a complex system from an optical, radio, and X-ray point of view. We present deep Very Large Array observations in total intensity at 325 and 1400 MHz. We produced and analyzed spectral index images of the radio halo in this frequency range at a resolution of 39″ and 60″ and looked for possible correlations with the thermal properties of the cluster. We find an integrated radio halo spectral index alpha(325-1400) ~ 1.12. No strong radial steepening is present and the spectral index distribution is intrinsically complex with fluctuations only partially due to measurement errors. The radio halo integrated spectral index and the cluster temperature follow the global trend observed in other galaxy clusters although a strong point-to-point correlation between the spectral index and the thermal gas temperature has not been observed. The complex morphology in the spectral index image of the radio halo in A520 is in agreement with the primary models for radio halo formation. The flatness of the radial profile suggests that the merger is still ongoing and is uniformly and continuously (re-) accelerating the population of relativistic electrons responsible of the radio emission even at large (~ 1 Mpc) distances from the cluster center.

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Date added: Fri, 11 Oct 13