The Effects of Magnetic Fields on the Dynamics of Radiation Pressure-dominated Massive Star Envelopes

Yan Fei Jiang, Matteo Cantiello, Lars Bildsten, Eliot Quataert, Omer Blaes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


We use three-dimensional radiation magnetohydrodynamic simulations to study the effects of magnetic fields on the energy transport and structure of radiation pressure-dominated main sequence massive star envelopes at the region of the iron opacity peak. We focus on the regime where the local thermal timescale is shorter than the dynamical timescale, corresponding to inefficient convective energy transport. We begin with initially weak magnetic fields relative to the thermal pressure, from 100 to 1000 G in differing geometries. The unstable density inversion amplifies the magnetic field, increasing the magnetic energy density to values close to equipartition with the turbulent kinetic energy density. By providing pressure support, the magnetic fields presence significantly increases the density fluctuations in the turbulent envelope, thereby enhancing the radiative energy transport by allowing photons to diffuse out through low-density regions. Magnetic buoyancy brings small-scale magnetic fields to the photosphere and increases the vertical energy transport, with the energy advection velocity proportional to the Alfvn velocity, although in all cases we study, photon diffusion still dominates the energy transport. The increased radiative and advective energy transport causes the stellar envelope to shrink by several scale heights. We also find larger turbulent velocity fluctuations compared with the purely hydrodynamic case, reaching ≈100 km s-1 at the stellar photosphere. The photosphere also shows vertical oscillations with similar averaged velocities and periods of a few hours. The increased turbulent velocity and oscillations will have strong impacts on the line broadening and periodic signals in massive stars.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number68
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 1 2017
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • Magnetohydrodynamics (MHD)
  • Methods: numerical
  • Radiative transfer
  • Stars: massive


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