Galactic Disk Winds Driven by Cosmic Ray Pressure

S. Alwin Mao, Eve Charis Ostriker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations


Cosmic ray pressure gradients transfer energy and momentum to extraplanar gas in disk galaxies, potentially driving significant mass loss as galactic winds. This may be particularly important for launching high-velocity outflows of "cool" (T ≲ 104 K) gas. We study cosmic ray-driven disk winds using a simplified semi-analytic model assuming streamlines follow the large-scale gravitational potential gradient. We consider scaled Milky Way-like potentials including a disk, bulge, and halo with a range of halo velocities V H = 50-300 and streamline footpoints with radii in the disk R 0 = 1-16 kpc at a height of 1 kpc. Our solutions cover a wide range of footpoint gas velocity u 0, magnetic-to-cosmic ray pressure ratio, gas-to-cosmic ray pressure ratio, and angular momentum. Cosmic ray streaming at the Alfvén speed enables the effective sound speed C eff to increase from the footpoint to a critical point where C eff,c = u c ∼ V H; this differs from thermal winds, in which C eff decreases outward. The critical point is typically at a height of 1-6 kpc from the disk, increasing with V H, and the asymptotic wind velocity exceeds the escape speed of the halo. Mass-loss rates are insensitive to the footpoint values of the magnetic field and angular momentum. In addition to numerical parameter space exploration, we develop and compare to analytic scaling relations. We show that winds have mass-loss rates per unit area up to σ ∼ π0 V-5/3H2/30, where Π0 is the footpoint cosmic ray pressure and u 0 is set by the upwelling of galactic fountains. The predicted wind mass-loss rate exceeds the star formation rate for V H ≲ 200 and u 0 = 50 Km s-1, a typical fountain velocity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number89
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 20 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • cosmic rays
  • galaxies: ISM
  • galaxies: evolution
  • galaxies: star formation


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