AAS 203rd Meeting, January 2004
Session 92 Astrophysical Jets and Radio Galaxies
Poster, Wednesday, January 7, 2004, 9:20am-6:30pm, Grand Hall

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[92.11] Current-driven Instabilities of Poynting-flux-dominated Jets

M. Nakamura, D. L. Meier (Jet Propulsion Laboratory)

Non-relativistic 3-D magnetohydrodynamic simulations of Poynting-flux-dominated (PFD) jets are presented. Our study focuses on the propagation of strongly magnetized hypersonic but sub-Alfvénic flow (C\rm s2 << V\rm jet2 < V\rm A2) and the development of a current-driven instability (CDI). This instability may be responsible for the "wiggled" structures seen in VLBI-scale AGN jets. In the present paper we investigate the nonlinear behavior of PFD jets in a variety of external ambient magnetized gas distributions, including those with density, pressure, and temperature gradients. Our numerical results show that PFD jets can develop kink distortions in the trans-Alfvénic flow case, even when the flow itself is still strongly magnetically dominated. In the nonlinear development of the instability, a non-axisymmetric mode grows on time scales of order the Alfvén crossing time (in the jet frame) and proceeds to disrupt the kinematic and magnetic structure of the jet. Because of a large scale poloidal magnetic field in the ambient medium, the growth of surface modes (i.e., MHD Kelvin-Helmholtz instabilities) is suppressed. The CDI kink mode (m = 1) grows faster than the other higher order modes (m > 1), driven in large part by the radial component of the Lorentz force. Detailed studies of the CDI of PFD outflows using high-resolution computations, and application of these physical processes to sub-pc to pc scales structures of AGN jets, will be discussed. M.N. is supported by a NRC Resident Research Associateship, sponsored by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

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