Separating the scales in a compressible interstellar medium

J. F. Hollins, G. R. Sarson, A. Shukurov, A. Fletcher, F. A. Gent

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


We apply Gaussian smoothing to obtain mean density, velocity, magnetic and energy density fields in simulations of the interstellar medium based on three-dimensional magnetohydrodynamic equations in a shearing box $1\times1\times2 \, \rm{kpc}$ in size. Unlike alternative averaging procedures, such as horizontal averaging, Gaussian smoothing retains the three-dimensional structure of the mean fields. Although Gaussian smoothing does not obey the Reynolds rules of averaging, physically meaningful central statistical moments are defined as suggested by Germano (1992). We discuss methods to identify an optimal smoothing scale $\ell$ and the effects of this choice on the results. From spectral analysis of the magnetic, density and velocity fields, we find a suitable smoothing length for all three fields, of $\ell \approx 75 \, \rm{pc}$. We discuss the properties of third-order statistical moments in fluctuations of kinetic energy density in compressible flows and suggest their physical interpretation. The mean magnetic field, amplified by a mean-field dynamo, significantly alters the distribution of kinetic energy in space and between scales, reducing the magnitude of kinetic energy at intermediate scales. This intermediate-scale kinetic energy is a useful diagnostic of the importance of SN-driven outflows.
Original languageEnglish
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Publication statusSubmitted - 2018
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Astrophysics - Astrophysics of Galaxies

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