Simulations of the magnetothermal instability (MTI) in an idealized galaxy cluster. Conditions in the ICM of massive galaxy clusters imply that electrons are confined to move only along magnetic field lines. This motion means that the viscosity and thermal conductivity of the plasma are strongly anisotropic with respect to the magnetic field. As a result, the dominant convective instability switches from the usual Schwarzschild instability to the magnetothermal instability (MTI), which depends on the temperature gradient of the plasma. As a result, galaxy clusters are actually unstable to convection and their hot atmospheres can "boil".
Methods: ATHENA code.