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Keywords:

  • blackhole physics;
  • radiative transfer;
  • methods: numerical;
  • galaxies: active;
  • quasars: general

ABSTRACT

To facilitate the study of black hole fuelling, star formation and feedback in galaxies, we outline a method for treating the radial forces on interstellar gas due to absorption of photons by dust grains. The method gives the correct behaviour in all of the relevant limits [dominated by the central point source; dominated by the distributed isotropic source; optically thin; optically thick to ultraviolet (UV)/optical; optically thick to infrared (IR)] and reasonably interpolates between the limits when necessary. The method is explicitly energy conserving so that UV/optical photons that are absorbed are not lost, but are rather redistributed to the IR where they may scatter out of the galaxy. We implement the radiative transfer algorithm in a two-dimensional hydrodynamical code designed to study feedback processes in the context of early-type galaxies. We find that the dynamics and final state of simulations are measurably but only moderately affected by radiative forces on dust, even when assumptions about the dust-to-gas ratio are varied from zero to a value appropriate for the Milky Way. In simulations with high gas densities designed to mimic ultraluminous IR galaxies with a star formation rate of several hundred solar masses per year, dust makes a more substantial contribution to the dynamics and outcome of the simulation. We find that, despite the large opacity of dust to UV radiation, the momentum input to the flow from radiation very rarely exceeds L/c due to two factors: the low opacity of dust to the re-radiated IR and the tendency for dust to be destroyed by sputtering in hot gas environments. We also develop a simplification of our radiative transfer algorithm that respects the essential physics but is much easier to implement and requires a fraction of the computational cost.