Abell 2256 is a nearby (z ≈ 0.06), rich cluster of galaxies with fascinating observed properties across a range of wavelengths. Long believed to represent a cluster merger, recent X-ray and optical results have suggested that in addition to the primary cluster and subcluster there is evidence for a third, poorer system. We present wide-field, high sensitivity 1.4 GHz VLA radio observations of Abell 2256 in conjunction with optical imaging and additional spectroscopy. Over 40 cluster radio galaxies are identified, with optical spectroscopy indicating the emission source (star formation or AGN) for most of them. While the overall fraction of galaxies exhibiting radio emission is consistent with a large sample of other nearby clusters, we find an increase in the activity level of galaxies belonging to the third system (hereafter, the “Group”). Specifically, the Group has relatively more star formation than both the primary cluster and main subcluster. The position of the Group is also coincident with the observed cluster radio relic. We suggest that the Group recently (∼0.3 Gyr) merged with the primary cluster and that this merger, not the ongoing merger of the primary and the main subcluster, might be responsible for many of the unusual radio properties of Abell 2256. Furthermore, the greater star formation activity of the Group suggests that the infall of groups is an important driver of galaxy evolution in clusters
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