A second-order Godunov method for multi-dimensional relativistic magnetohydrodynamics

Kris Beckwith, James McLellan Stone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

90 Scopus citations


We describe a new Godunov algorithm for relativistic magnetohydrodynamics (RMHD) that combines a simple, unsplit second-order accurate integrator with the constrained transport (CT) method for enforcing the solenoidal constraint on the magnetic field. A variety of approximate Riemann solvers are implemented to compute the fluxes of the conserved variables. The methods are tested with a comprehensive suite of multi-dimensional problems. These tests have helped us develop a hierarchy of correction steps that are applied when the integration algorithm predicts unphysical states due to errors in the fluxes, or errors in the inversion between conserved and primitive variables. Although used exceedingly rarely, these corrections dramatically improve the stability of the algorithm. We present preliminary results from the application of these algorithms to two problems in RMHD: the propagation of supersonic magnetized jets and the amplification of magnetic field by turbulence driven by the relativistic Kelvin-Helmholtz instability (KHI). Both of these applications reveal important differences between the results computed with Riemann solvers that adopt different approximations for the fluxes. For example, we show that the use of Riemann solvers that include both contact and rotational discontinuities can increase the strength of the magnetic field within the cocoon by a factor of 10 in simulations of RMHD jets and can increase the spectral resolution of three-dimensional RMHD turbulence driven by the KHI by a factor of two. This increase in accuracy far outweighs the associated increase in computational cost. Our RMHD scheme is publicly available as part of the Athena code.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number6
JournalAstrophysical Journal, Supplement Series
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • magnetohydrodynamics (MHD)
  • methods: numerical
  • relativistic processes


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