Nonlinear evolution of rayleigh-taylor instability in a radiation-supported atmosphere

Yan Fei Jiang, Shane W. Davis, James McLellan Stone

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27 Scopus citations


The nonlinear regime of Rayleigh-Taylor instability (RTI) in a radiation supported atmosphere, consisting of two uniform fluids with different densities, is studied numerically. We perform simulations using our recently developed numerical algorithm for multi-dimensional radiation hydrodynamics based on a variable Eddington tensor (VET) as implemented in Athena, focusing on the regime where scattering opacity greatly exceeds absorption opacity. We find that the radiation field can reduce the growth and mixing rate of RTI, but this reduction is only significant when radiation pressure significantly exceeds gas pressure. Small-scale structures are also suppressed in this case. In the nonlinear regime, dense fingers sink faster than rarefied bubbles can rise, leading to asymmetric structures about the interface. By comparing the calculations that use a VET versus the Eddington approximation, we demonstrate that anisotropy in the radiation field can affect the nonlinear development of RTI significantly. We also examine the disruption of a shell of cold gas being accelerated by strong radiation pressure, motivated by models of radiation driven outflows in ultraluminous infrared galaxies. We find that when the growth timescale of RTI is smaller than acceleration timescale, the amount of gas that would be pushed away by the radiation field is reduced due to RTI.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number102
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • hydrodynamics
  • instabilities
  • methods: numerical
  • radiative transfer


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