Stellar feedback strongly alters the amplification and morphology of galactic magnetic fields

Su et al., available on arXiv

Abstract: Using high-resolution magnetohydrodynamic simulations of idealized, non-cosmological galaxies, we investigate how cooling, star formation, and stellar feedback affect galactic magnetic fields. We find that the amplification histories, saturation values, and morphologies of the magnetic fields vary considerably depending on the baryonic physics employed, primarily because of differences in the gas density distribution. In particular, adiabatic runs and runs with a sub-grid (effective equation of state) stellar feedback model yield lower saturation values and morphologies that exhibit greater large-scale order compared with runs that adopt explicit stellar feedback and runs with cooling and star formation but no feedback. The discrepancies mostly lie in gas denser than the galactic average, which requires cooling and explicit fragmentation to capture. Independent of the baryonic physics included, the magnetic field strength scales with gas density as B~n^(2/3), suggesting isotropic flux freezing or equipartition between the magnetic and gravitational energies during the field amplification. We conclude that accurate treatments of cooling, star formation, and stellar feedback are crucial for obtaining the correct magnetic field strength and morphology in dense gas, which, in turn, is essential for properly modeling other physical processes that depend on the magnetic field, such as cosmic ray feedback.