AGN self-regulation in cooling flow clusters

A. Cattaneo, R. Teyssier

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95 Scopus citations


We use three-dimensional high-resolution adaptive-mesh-refinement simulations to investigate if mechanical feedback from active galactic nucleus jets can halt a massive cooling flow in a galaxy cluster and give rise to a self-regulated accretion cycle. We start with a 3 × 109 M black hole at the centre of a spherical halo with the mass of the Virgo cluster. Initially, all the baryons are in a hot intracluster medium in hydrostatic equilibrium within the dark matter's gravitational potential. The black hole accretes the surrounding gas at the Bondi rate, and a fraction of the accretion power is returned into the intracluster medium mechanically through the production of jets. The accretion, initially slow (∼2 × 10-4 M yr-1), becomes catastrophic, as the gas cools and condenses in the dark matter's potential. Therefore, it cannot prevent the cooling catastrophe at the centre of the cluster. However, after this rapid phase, where the accretion rate reaches a peak of ∼0.2 M yr-1, the cavities inflated by the jets become highly turbulent. The turbulent mixing of the shock-heated gas with the rest of the intracluster medium puts a quick end to this short-lived rapid-growth phase. After dropping by almost two orders of magnitudes, the black hole accretion rate stabilizes at ∼0.006 M yr-1, without significant variations for several billions of years, indicating that a self-regulated steady state has been reached. This accretion rate corresponds to a negligible increase of the black hole mass over the age of the Universe, but is sufficient to create a quasi-equilibrium state in the cluster core.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1547-1556
Number of pages10
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2007
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • Cooling flows
  • Galaxies: active
  • Galaxies: clusters: general
  • Galaxies: jets


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