Cosmic evolution of radio-AGN feedback: confronting models with data

R. Kondapally, P. N. Best, M. Raouf, N. L. Thomas, R. Davé, S. S. Shabala, H. J. A. Röttgering, M. J. Hardcastle, M. Bonato, R. K. Cochrane, K. Małek, L. K. Morabito, I. Prandoni, D. J. B. Smith

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Radio-mode feedback is a key ingredient in galaxy formation and evolution models, required to reproduce the observed properties of massive galaxies in the local Universe. We study the cosmic evolution of radio-active galactic nuclei (AGN) feedback out to z ∼ 2.5 using a sample of 9485 radio-excess AGN. We combine the evolving radio luminosity functions with a radio luminosity scaling relationship to estimate AGN jet kinetic powers and derive the cosmic evolution of the kinetic luminosity density, Ωkin (i.e. the volume-averaged heating output). Compared to all radio-AGN, low-excitation radio galaxies dominate the feedback activity out to z ∼ 2.5, with both these populations showing a constant heating output of Ωkin≈(4−5)×1032WMpc−3Ωkin≈(4−5)×1032WMpc−3 across 0.5 < z < 2.5. We compare our observations to predictions from semi-analytical and hydrodynamical simulations, which broadly match the observed evolution in Ωkin, although their absolute normalization varies. Comparison to the Semi-Analytic Galaxy Evolution (SAGE) model suggests that radio-AGN may provide sufficient heating to offset radiative cooling losses, providing evidence for a self-regulated AGN feedback cycle. We integrate the kinetic luminosity density across cosmic time to obtain the kinetic energy density output from AGN jets throughout cosmic history to be ∼1050JMpc−3∼1050JMpc−3⁠. Compared to AGN winds, the kinetic energy density from AGN jets dominates the energy budget at z ≲ 2; this suggests that AGN jets play an important role in AGN feedback across most of cosmic history.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5292-5305
Number of pages14
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number4
Early online date16 Jun 2023
Publication statusPublished - 30 Aug 2023


  • astro-ph.GA
  • astro-ph.HE
  • galaxies: jets
  • galaxies: active
  • galaxies: evolution
  • radio continuum: galaxies


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