skip to main content

Title: Hyper-Eddington black hole growth in star-forming molecular clouds and galactic nuclei: can it happen?

Formation of supermassive black holes (BHs) remains a theoretical challenge. In many models, especially beginning from stellar relic ‘seeds,’ this requires sustained super-Eddington accretion. While studies have shown BHs can violate the Eddington limit on accretion disc scales given sufficient ‘fuelling’ from larger scales, what remains unclear is whether or not BHs can actually capture sufficient gas from their surrounding interstellar medium (ISM). We explore this in a suite of multiphysics high-resolution simulations of BH growth in magnetized, star-forming dense gas complexes including dynamical stellar feedback from radiation, stellar mass-loss, and supernovae, exploring populations of seeds with masses $\sim 1\!-\!10^{4}\, \mathrm{M}_{\odot }$. In this initial study, we neglect feedback from the BHs: so this sets a strong upper limit to the accretion rates seeds can sustain. We show that stellar feedback plays a key role. Complexes with gravitational pressure/surface density below $\sim 10^{3}\, \mathrm{M}_{\odot }\, {\rm pc^{-2}}$ are disrupted with low star formation efficiencies so provide poor environments for BH growth. But in denser cloud complexes, early stellar feedback does not rapidly destroy the clouds but does generate strong shocks and dense clumps, allowing $\sim 1{{\ \rm per\ cent}}$ of randomly initialized seeds to encounter a dense clump with more » low relative velocity and produce runaway, hyper-Eddington accretion (growing by orders of magnitude). Remarkably, mass growth under these conditions is almost independent of initial BH mass, allowing rapid intermediate-mass black hole (IMBH) formation even for stellar-mass seeds. This defines a necessary (but perhaps not sufficient) set of criteria for runaway BH growth: we provide analytic estimates for the probability of runaway growth under different ISM conditions.

« less
; ; ; ;
Award ID(s):
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
p. 3606-3621
Oxford University Press
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this

    Direct collapse black holes (BHs) are promising candidates for producing massive z ≳ 6 quasars, but their formation requires fine-tuned conditions. In this work, we use cosmological zoom simulations to study systematically the impact of requiring: (1) low gas angular momentum (spin), and (2) a minimum incident Lyman–Werner (LW) flux in order to form BH seeds. We probe the formation of seeds (with initial masses of $M_{\rm seed} \sim 10^4\!-\!10^6\, \mathrm{M}_{\odot }\, h^{-1})$ in haloes with a total mass >3000 × Mseed and a dense, metal-poor gas mass >5 × Mseed. Within this framework, we find that the seed-forming haloes have a prior history of star formation and metal enrichment, but they also contain pockets of dense, metal-poor gas. When seeding is further restricted to haloes with low gas spins, the number of seeds formed is suppressed by factors of ∼6 compared to the baseline model, regardless of the seed mass. Seed formation is much more strongly impacted if the dense, metal-poor gas is required to have a critical LW flux (Jcrit). Even for Jcrit values as low as 50J21, no $8\times 10^{5}~\mathrm{M}_{\odot }\, h^{-1}$ seeds are formed. While lower mass ($1.25\times 10^{4},1\times 10^{5}~\mathrm{M}_{\odot }\, h^{-1}$) seeds do form, they are strongly suppressed (by factors of ∼10–100) comparedmore »to the baseline model at gas mass resolutions of $\sim 10^4~\mathrm{M}_{\odot }\, h^{-1}$ (with even stronger suppression at higher resolutions). As a result, BH merger rates are also similarly suppressed. Since early BH growth is dominated by mergers in our models, none of the seeds are able to grow to the supermassive regime ($\gtrsim 10^6~\mathrm{M}_{\odot }\, h^{-1}$) by z = 7. Our results hint that producing the bulk of the z ≳ 6 supermassive BH population may require alternate seeding scenarios that do not depend on the LW flux, early BH growth dominated by rapid or super-Eddington accretion, or a combination of these possibilities.

    « less

    We explore implications of a range of black hole (BH) seeding prescriptions on the formation of the brightest $z$ ≳ 6 quasars in cosmological hydrodynamic simulations. The underlying galaxy formation model is the same as in the IllustrisTNG simulations. Using constrained initial conditions, we study the growth of BHs in rare overdense regions (forming $\gtrsim 10^{12}\, {\rm M}_{\odot }\,h^{-1}$ haloes by $z$ = 7) using a  (9 Mpc h−1)3 simulated volume. BH growth is maximal within haloes that are compact and have a low tidal field. For these haloes, we consider an array of gas-based seeding prescriptions wherein $M_{\mathrm{seed}}=10^4\!-\!10^6\, {\rm M}_{\odot }\,h^{-1}$ seeds are inserted in haloes above critical thresholds for halo mass and dense, metal-poor gas mass (defined as $\tilde{M}_{\mathrm{h}}$ and $\tilde{M}_{\mathrm{sf,mp}}$, respectively, in units of Mseed). We find that a seed model with $\tilde{M}_{\mathrm{sf,mp}}=5$ and $\tilde{M}_{\mathrm{h}}=3000$ successfully produces a $z$ ∼ 6 quasar with $\sim 10^9\, {\rm M}_{\odot }$ mass and ∼1047 erg s−1 luminosity. BH mergers play a crucial role at $z$ ≳ 9, causing an early boost in BH mass at a time when accretion-driven BH growth is negligible. With more stringent seeding conditions (e.g. $\tilde{M}_{\mathrm{sf,mp}}=1000$), the relative paucity of BH seeds results in a much lower merger rate. In this case, $z$more »≳ 6 quasars can only be formed if we enhance the maximum allowed BH accretion rates (by factors ≳10) compared to the accretion model used in IllustrisTNG. This can be achieved either by allowing for super-Eddington accretion, or by reducing the radiative efficiency. Our results demonstrate that progenitors of $z$ ∼ 6 quasars have distinct BH merger histories for different seeding models, which will be distinguishable with Laser Interferometer Space Antenna observations.

    « less
  3. ABSTRACT Possible formation scenarios of supermassive black holes (BHs) in the early universe include rapid growth from less massive seed BHs via super-Eddington accretion or runaway mergers, yet both of these scenarios would require seed BHs to efficiently sink to and be trapped in the Galactic Centre via dynamical friction. This may not be true for their complicated dynamics in clumpy high-z galaxies. In this work, we study this ‘sinking problem’ with state-of-the-art high-resolution cosmological simulations, combined with both direct N-body integration of seed BH trajectories and post-processing of randomly generated test particles with a newly developed dynamical friction estimator. We find that seed BHs less massive than $10^8\, \mathrm{M}_\odot$ (i.e. all but the already-supermassive seeds) cannot efficiently sink in typical high-z galaxies. We also discuss two possible solutions: dramatically increasing the number of seeds such that one seed can end up trapped in the Galactic Centre by chance, or seed BHs being embedded in dense structures (e.g. star clusters) with effective masses above the mass threshold. We discuss the limitations of both solutions.

    Previous studies of fueling black holes in galactic nuclei have argued (on scales ${\sim}0.01{-}1000\,$pc) accretion is dynamical with inflow rates $\dot{M}\sim \eta \, M_{\rm gas}/t_{\rm dyn}$ in terms of gas mass Mgas, dynamical time tdyn, and some η. But these models generally neglected expulsion of gas by stellar feedback, or considered extremely high densities where expulsion is inefficient. Studies of star formation, however, have shown on sub-kpc scales the expulsion efficiency fwind = Mejected/Mtotal scales with the gravitational acceleration as $(1-f_{\rm wind})/f_{\rm wind}\sim \bar{a}_{\rm grav}/\langle \dot{p}/m_{\ast }\rangle \sim \Sigma _{\rm eff}/\Sigma _{\rm crit}$ where $\bar{a}_{\rm grav}\equiv G\, M_{\rm tot}(\lt r)/r^{2}$ and $\langle \dot{p}/m_{\ast }\rangle$ is the momentum injection rate from young stars. Adopting this as the simplest correction for stellar feedback, $\eta \rightarrow \eta \, (1-f_{\rm wind})$, we show this provides a more accurate description of simulations with stellar feedback at low densities. This has immediate consequences, predicting the slope and normalization of the MBH − σ and MBH − Mbulge relation, LAGN −SFR relations, and explanations for outliers in compact Es. Most strikingly, because star formation simulations show expulsion is efficient (fwind ∼ 1) below total-mass surface density $M_{\rm tot}/\pi \, r^{2}\lt \Sigma _{\rm crit}\sim 3\times 10^{9}\, \mathrm{M}_{\odotmore »}\, {\rm kpc^{-2}}$ (where $\Sigma _{\rm crit}=\langle \dot{p}/m_{\ast }\rangle /(\pi \, G)$), BH mass is predicted to specifically trace host galaxy properties above a critical surface brightness Σcrit (B-band $\mu _{\rm B}^{\rm crit}\sim 19\, {\rm mag\, arcsec^{-2}}$). This naturally explains why BH masses preferentially reflect bulge properties or central surface densities (e.g. $\Sigma _{1\, {\rm kpc}}$), not ‘total’ galaxy properties.

    « less

    Several recent simulations of galaxy formation predict two main phases of supermassive black hole (BH) accretion: an early, highly intermittent phase (during which BHs are undermassive relative to local scaling relations), followed by a phase of accelerated growth. We investigate physical factors that drive the transition in BH accretion in cosmological zoom-in simulations from the FIRE project, ranging from dwarf galaxies to galaxies sufficiently massive to host luminous quasars. The simulations model multichannel stellar feedback, but neglect AGN feedback. We show that multiple physical properties, including halo mass, galaxy stellar mass, and depth of the central gravitational potential correlate with accelerated BH fuelling: constant thresholds in these properties are typically crossed within ∼0.1 Hubble time of accelerated BH fuelling. Black hole masses increase sharply when the stellar surface density in the inner 1 kpc crosses a threshold $\Sigma^\star _{1\,\rm kpc}\approx 10^{9.5} \, {\rm M_{\odot }}\,{\rm kpc}^{-2}$, a characteristic value above which gravity prevents stellar feedback from ejecting gas, and similar to the value above which galaxies are observed to quench. We further show that accelerated BH growth correlates with the emergence of long-lived thin gas discs, as well as with virialization of the inner circumgalactic medium. The halo mass Mhalomore »∼ 1012 M⊙ and stellar mass M* ∼ 1010.5 M⊙ at which BH growth accelerates correspond to ∼L⋆ galaxies. The fact that stellar feedback becomes inefficient at ejecting gas from the nucleus above this mass scale may play an important role in explaining why AGN feedback appears to be most important in galaxies above L⋆.

    « less