Rayleigh-Taylor Instability at Ionization Fronts: Perturbation Analysis

The linear growth rate of the Rayleigh-Taylor instability (RTI) at ionization fronts is investigated via perturbation analysis in the limit of incompressible fluids. In agreement with previous numerical studies is found that absorption of ionizing radiation inside the HII region due to hydrogen recombinations suppresses the growth of instabilities. In the limit of a large density contrast at the ionization front the RTI growth rate has the simple analytical solution n=-nur+(nur^2+gk)^(1/2), where nur is the hydrogen recombination rate inside the HII region, k is the perturbation’s wavenumber and g is the effective acceleration in the frame of reference of the front. Therefore, the growth of surface perturbations with wavelengths lambda >> lambda_{cr} = 2\pi g/nur^2 is suppressed by a factor (lambda_{cr}/4lambda)^(1/2) with respect to the non-radiative incompressible RTI. Implications on stellar and black hole feedback are briefly discussed.

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Date added: Tue, 8 Oct 13