3D simulations of the early stages of AGN jets: Geometry, thermodynamics and backflow

S. Cielo, V. Antonuccio-Delogu, A. V. Macciò, A. D. Romeo, J. Silk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We investigate the interplay between jets from active galactic nuclei (AGNs) and the surrounding interstellar medium (ISM) through full 3D, high-resolution, adaptive mesh refinement simulations performed with the FLASH code. We follow the jet-ISM system for several Myr in its transition from an early, compact source to an extended one including a large cocoon. During the jet evolution, we identify three major evolutionary stages and we find that, contrary to the prediction of popular theoretical models, none of the simulations shows a self-similar behaviour. We also follow the evolution of the energy budget, and find that the fraction of input power deposited into the ISM (the AGN coupling constant) is of the order of a few per cent during the first few Myr. This is in broad agreement with galaxy formation models employing AGN feedback. However, we find that in these early stages, this energy is deposited only in a small fraction (<1 per cent) of the total ISM volume. Finally, we demonstrate the relevance of backflows arising within the extended cocoon generated by a relativistic AGN jet within the ISM of its host galaxy, previously proposed as a mechanism for self-regulating the gas accretion on to the central object. These backflows tend later to be destabilized by the 3D dynamics, rather than by hydrodynamic (Kelvin-Helmholtz) instabilities. Yet, in the first few hundred thousand years, backflows may create a central accretion region of significant extent, and convey there as much as a few millions of solar masses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2903-2916
Number of pages14
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 2014


  • ISM-Galaxies
  • Jet-Galaxies
  • Methods
  • Nuclei
  • Numerical-Galaxies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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