Momentum driving: Which physical processes dominate active galactic nucleus feedback?

Jeremiah P. Ostriker, Ena Choi, Luca Ciotti, Gregory S. Novak, Daniel Proga

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

230 Scopus citations


The deposition of mechanical feedback from a supermassive black hole (SMBH) in an active galactic nucleus into the surrounding galaxy occurs via broad-line winds which must carry mass and radial momentum as well as energy. The effect can be summarized by the dimensionless parameter η = Ṁoutf/ Ṁacc = 2∈wc22 w where ∈w (≡ Ėw/ (Ṁaccc2)) is the efficiency with which accreted matter is turned into wind energy in the disk surrounding the central SMBH. The outflowing mass and momentum are proportional to η, and many prior treatments have essentially assumed that η = 0. We perform one-and two-dimensional simulations and find that the growth of the central SMBH is very sensitive to the inclusion of the mass and momentum driving but is insensitive to the assumed mechanical efficiency. For example in representative calculations, the omission of momentum and mass feedback leads to a hundred-fold increase in the mass of the SMBH to over 1010 M. When allowance is made for momentum driving, the final SMBH mass is much lower and the wind efficiencies that lead to the most observationally acceptable results are relatively low with ∈w ≲ 10-4.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)642-652
Number of pages11
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - 10 Oct 2010


  • Accretion, accretion disks
  • Black hole physics
  • Galaxies: active
  • Galaxies: nuclei
  • Galaxies: starburst
  • Quasars: general


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