Rayleigh-Taylor instability in two-component relativistic jets

Kenji Toma, Serguei S. Komissarov, Oliver Porth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


Relativistic jets associated with active galactic nuclei and gamma-ray bursts propagate over huge distances without significant loss of momentum.At the same time they are bright emitters, which is indicative of strong energy dissipation. This points towards a mechanism of internal dissipation which does not result in a global disruption of the flow. One possibility is internal shocks and another one is turbulence driven by local instabilities. Such instabilities can be triggered when a freely expanding jet is reconfined by either the cocoon or external gas pressure. In this paper, we study the dynamics of two-component spine-sheath hydrodynamic jets coming into pressure equilibrium with external gas using 2D computer simulations. We find that the jet oscillations lead to a rapid onset of Rayleigh-Taylor-type instabilities, which results in additional internal dissipation and mixing of the jet components. Although slightly different in details, this outcome holds both for the heavy-spine-light-sheath and light-spineheavy- sheath configurations. The results may provide an explanation to the spatial flaring observed in some AGN jets on kpc-scales.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1253-1258
Number of pages6
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Galaxies: active
  • Galaxies: jets
  • Hydrodynamics
  • Instabilities
  • Relativistic processes


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