Radiation feedback in ULIRGs: Are photons movers and shakers?

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

80 Scopus citations


We perform multidimensional radiation hydrodynamics simulations to study the impact of radiation forces on atmospheres composed of dust and gas. Our setup closely follows that of Krumholz & Thompson, assuming that dust and gas are well-coupled and that the radiation field is characterized by blackbodies with temperatures ≳ 80 K, as might be found in ultraluminous infrared galaxies (ULIRGs). In agreement with previous work, we find that Rayleigh-Taylor instabilities develop in radiation supported atmospheres, leading to inhomogeneities that limit momentum exchange between radiation and dusty gas, and eventually providing a near balance of the radiation and gravitational forces. However, the evolution of the velocity and spatial distributions of the gas differs significantly from previous work, which utilized a less accurate flux-limited diffusion (FLD) method. Our variable Eddington tensor simulations show continuous net acceleration of the gas and never reach a steady state. In contrast, our FLD results show little net acceleration of the gas and settle into a quasi-steady, turbulent state with low velocity dispersion. The discrepancies result primarily from the inability of FLD to properly model the variation of the radiation field around structures that are less than a few optical depths across. We consider the effect of varying the optical depth and study the differences between two-dimensional and three-dimensional runs. We conclude that radiation feedback remains a plausible mechanism for driving high-Mach number turbulence in ULIRGs with sufficiently high optical depths. We discuss implications for observed systems and galactic-scale numerical simulations of feedback.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number107
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 1 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • ISM: jets and outflows
  • galaxies: ISM
  • hydrodynamics
  • methods: numerical
  • radiative transfer


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