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Weißmann, Alexandra (2013): Statistical analysis of the X-ray morphology of galaxy clusters. Dissertation, LMU München: Faculty of Physics



The morphological analysis of galaxy clusters in X-rays allows a reliable determination of their dynamical state. Substructures on (sub-)Mpc scale influence the gravitational potential of a cluster and manifest themselves in the X-ray surface brightness distribution as secondary peaks or overall irregular shape. They lead to deviations from the hydrostatic equilibrium and spherical shape, two assumptions which are widely used in galaxy cluster studies to derive global astrophysical properties. Analyzing the X-ray morphology of clusters thus yields valuable information, provided that the employed substructure measures are well-tested and well-calibrated. In this work, the X-ray morphology of galaxy clusters is quantified using three common substructure parameters (power ratios, center shift and the asymmetry parameter), which are subsequently employed to study the disturbed cluster fraction as a function of redshift. To ensure a reliable application of these substructure parameters on a variety of X-ray images, a detailed parameter study is conducted. It focuses on the performance and reliability of the parameters for varying data quality using simulated and observed X-ray images. In particular, when applying them to X-ray images with low photon counts such as observations of distant clusters or survey data, it is important to know the characteristics of the parameters. Comparing the three substructure measures, the center shift parameter is most robust against Poisson noise and allows a reliable determination of the clusters' dynamical state even for low-count observations. Power ratios, especially the hexapole P3/P0, and the asymmetry parameter, on the other hand, are severely affected by noise, which results in spuriously high substructure signals. Furthermore, this work presents methods to minimize the noise bias. The results of the parameter study provide a step forward in the morphological analysis of high-redshift clusters and are employed in the framework of this thesis to quantify the evolution of the disturbed cluster fraction. The sample used for this analysis comprises 78 low-z (z < 0.3) and 51 high-z (0.3 < z < 1.08) galaxy clusters with varying photon statistics. The low-redshift objects were observed with the XMM-Newton observatory, contain a high number of photon counts and are part of several well-known and representative samples. For z > 0.3, the high-redshift subsets of the 400d2 and SPT survey catalog are used. These objects were mainly observed with the Chandra observatory and have low photon counts. To ensure a fair comparison, which is independent of the data quality, the photon statistics of the low- and high-redshift observations are aligned before performing the morphological analysis. In agreement with the hierarchical structure formation model, a mild positive evolution with redshift, i.e. a larger fraction of clusters with disturbed X-ray morphologies at higher redshift, is found. Owing to the low photon counts and small number of high-redshift observations, the statistical significance of this result is low. For two of the three substructure parameters (power ratios and center shift) the findings are also consistent within the significance limits with no evolution, but a negative evolution of the disturbed cluster fraction can be excluded for all parameters.