Journal Article

Mechanical AGN feedback: controlling the thermodynamical evolution of elliptical galaxies

M. Gaspari, F. Brighenti and P. Temi

in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Published on behalf of The Royal Astronomical Society

Volume 424, issue 1, pages 190-209
Published in print July 2012 | ISSN: 0035-8711
Published online July 2012 | e-ISSN: 1365-2966 | DOI:
Mechanical AGN feedback: controlling the thermodynamical evolution of elliptical galaxies

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A fundamental gap in the current understanding of galaxies concerns the thermodynamical evolution of ordinary, baryonic matter. On the one hand, radiative emission drastically decreases the thermal energy content of the interstellar plasma (ISM), inducing a slow cooling flow towards the centre. On the other hand, the active galactic nucleus (AGN) struggles to prevent the runaway cooling catastrophe, injecting huge amount of energy into the ISM. The present study intends to investigate thoroughly the role of mechanical AGN feedback in (isolated or massive) elliptical galaxies, extending and completing the mass range of tested cosmic environments. Our previously successful feedback models in galaxy clusters and groups demonstrated that AGN outflows, self-regulated by cold gas accretion, are able to quench the cooling flow properly without destroying the cool core. Via three-dimensional hydrodynamic simulations (flash 3.3), also including stellar evolution, we show that massive mechanical AGN outflows can indeed solve the cooling-flow problem for the entire life of the galaxy, at the same time reproducing typical observational features and constraints such as buoyant underdense bubbles, elliptical shock cocoons, sonic ripples, dredge-up of metals, subsonic turbulence and extended filamentary or nuclear cold gas. In order to avoid overheating and totally emptying the isolated galaxy, the frequent mechanical AGN feedback should be less powerful and efficient (ε∼ 10−4) compared with the heating required for more massive and bound ellipticals surrounded by the intragroup medium (ε∼ 10−3).

Keywords: hydrodynamics; galaxies: active; intergalactic medium; galaxies: ISM; galaxies: jets; X-rays: galaxies

Journal Article.  15051 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics

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