Galaxies that shine: Radiation-hydrodynamical simulations of disc galaxies

Joakim Rosdahl, Joop Schaye, Romain Teyssier, Oscar Agertz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

102 Scopus citations


Radiation feedback is typically implemented using subgrid recipes in hydrodynamical simulations of galaxies. Very little work has so far been performed using radiation-hydrodynamics (RHD), and there is no consensus on the importance of radiation feedback in galaxy evolution. We present RHD simulations of isolated galaxy discs of different masses with a resolution of 18 pc. Besides accounting for supernova feedback, our simulations are the first galaxy-scale simulations to include RHD treatments of photoionization heating and radiation pressure, from both direct optical/UV radiation and multiscattered, re-processed infrared (IR) radiation. Photoheating smooths and thickens the discs and suppresses star formation about as much as the inclusion of ('thermal dump') supernova feedback does. These effects decrease with galaxy mass and are mainly due to the prevention of the formation of dense clouds, as opposed to their destruction. Radiation pressure, whether from direct or IR radiation, has little effect, but for the IR radiation we show that its impact is limited by our inability to resolve the high optical depths for which multiscattering becomes important. While artificially boosting the IR optical depths does reduce the star formation, it does so by smoothing the gas rather than by generating stronger outflows. We conclude that although higher resolution simulations, and potentially also different supernova implementations, are needed for confirmation, our findings suggest that radiation feedback is more gentle and less effective than is often assumed in subgrid prescriptions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)34-58
Number of pages25
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 1 2015
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • Galaxies: evolution
  • Methods: numerical
  • Radiative transfer


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