The impact of AGN wind feedback in simulations of isolated galaxies with a multiphase ISM

Paul Torrey, Philip F. Hopkins, Claude André Faucher-Giguère, Daniel Anglés-Alcázar, Eliot Quataert, Xiangcheng Ma, Robert Feldmann, Dusan Keres, Norm Murray

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Accreting black holes can drive fast and energetic nuclear winds that may be an important feedback mechanism associated with active galactic nuclei (AGN). In this paper, we implement a scheme for capturing feedback from these fast nuclear winds and examine their impact in simulations of isolated disc galaxies. Stellar feedback is modelled using the Feedback In Realistic Environments (fire) physics and produces a realistic multiphase interstellar medium (ISM). We find that AGN winds drive the formation of a low-density, high-temperature central gas cavity that is broadly consistent with analytic model expectations. The effects of AGN feedback on the host galaxy are a strong function of the wind kinetic power and momentum. Low-and moderate-luminosity AGN do not have a significant effect on their host galaxy: The AGN winds inefficiently couple to the ambient ISM and instead a significant fraction of their energy vents in the polar direction. For such massive black holes, accretion near the Eddington limit can have a dramatic impact on the host galaxy ISM: if AGN wind feedback acts for ⊙20-30 Myr, the inner 1-10 kpc of the ISM is disrupted and the global galaxy star formation rate is significantly reduced. We quantify the properties of the resulting galaxy-scale outflows and find that the radial momentum in the outflow is boosted by a factor of 2-3 relative to that initially supplied in the AGN wind for strong feedback scenarios, decreasing below unity for less energetic winds. In contrast to observations, however, the outflows are primarily hot, with very little atomic or molecular gas. We conjecture that merging galaxies and high-redshift galaxies, which have more turbulent and thicker discs and very different nuclear gas geometries, may be even more disrupted by AGN winds than found in our simulations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5292-5308
Number of pages17
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1 2020


  • galaxies: ISM
  • galaxies: evolution
  • galaxies: nuclei
  • quasars: supermassive black holes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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