Simulating supersonic turbulence in galaxy outflows

Evan Scannapieco, Marcus Brüggen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


We present three-dimensional, adaptive mesh simulations of dwarf galaxy outflows driven by supersonic turbulence. We develop a subgrid model to track not only the thermal and bulk velocities of the gas, but also its turbulent velocities and length-scales. This allows us to deposit energy from supernovae directly into supersonic turbulence, which acts on scales much larger than a particle mean-free path, but much smaller than resolved large-scale flows. Unlike previous approaches, we are able to simulate a starbursting galaxy modelled after NGC 1569, with realistic radiative cooling throughout the simulation. Pockets of hot, diffuse gas around individual OB associations sweep up thick shells of material that persist for long times due to the cooling instability. The overlapping of high-pressure, rarefied regions leads to a collective central outflow that escapes the galaxy by eating away at the exterior gas through turbulent mixing, rather than gathering it into a thin, unstable shell. Supersonic, turbulent gas naturally avoids dense regions where turbulence decays quickly and cooling times are short, and this further enhances density contrasts throughout the galaxy - leading to a complex, chaotic distribution of bubbles, loops and filaments as observed in NGC 1569 and other outflowing starbursts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1634-1653
Number of pages20
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2010


  • Galaxies: dwarf
  • Galaxies: starburst
  • Hydrodynamics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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