Magnetohydrodynamics Simulations of Active Galactic Nucleus Disks and Jets

Shane W. Davis, Alexander Tchekhovskoy

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


There is a broad consensus that accretion onto supermassive black holes and consequent jet formation power the observed emission from active galactic nuclei (AGNs). However, there has been less agreement about how jets form in accretion flows, their possible relationship to black hole spin, and how they interact with the surrounding medium. There have also been theoretical concerns about instabilities in standard accretion disk models and lingering discrepancies with observational constraints. Despite seemingly successful applications to X-ray binaries, the standard accretion disk model faces a growing list of observational constraints that challenge its application to AGNs. Theoretical exploration of these questions has become increasingly reliant on numerical simulations owing to the dynamic nature of these flows and the complex interplay between hydrodynamics, magnetic fields, radiation transfer, and curved spacetime. We conclude the following: ▪The advent of general relativistic magnetohydrodynamics (MHD) simulations has greatly improved our understanding of jet production and its dependence on black hole spin. ▪Simulation results show both disks and jets are sensitive to the magnetic flux threading the accretion flow as well as possible misalignment between the angular momentum of the accretion flow and the black hole spin. ▪Radiation MHD simulations are providing new insights into the stability of luminous accretion flows and highlighting the potential importance of radiation viscosity, UV opacity from atoms, and spiral density waves in AGNs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)407-439
Number of pages33
JournalAnnual Review of Astronomy and Astrophysics
StatePublished - 2020


  • black hole physics
  • general relativity
  • radiation transport

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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