The particle content of low-power radio galaxies in groups and clusters
The synchrotron-radiating particles and magnetic fields in low-power radio galaxies (including most nearby cluster-centre sources), if at equipartition, can provide only a small fraction of the total internal energy density of the radio lobes or plumes, which is now well constrained via X-ray observations of their external environments. We consider the constraints on models for the dominant energy contribution in low-power radio-galaxy lobes obtained from a detailed comparison of how the internal equipartition pressure and external pressure measured from X-ray observations evolve with distance for two radio galaxies, 3C 31 and Hydra A. We rule out relativistic lepton dominance of the radio lobes, and conclude that models in which magnetic field or relativistic protons/ions carried up the jet dominate lobe energetics are unlikely. Finally, we argue that entrainment of material from the jet surroundings can provide the necessary pressure, and construct a simple self-consistent model of the evolution of the entrainment rate required for pressure balance along the 100-kpc-scale plumes of 3C 31. Such a model requires that the entrained material is heated to temperatures substantially above that of the surrounding intragroup medium, and that the temperature of the thermal component of the jet increases with distance, though remaining sub-relativistic.