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Title: Cloudy with a chance of rain: accretion braking of cold clouds

Understanding the survival, growth, and dynamics of cold gas is fundamental to galaxy formation. While there has been a plethora of work on ‘wind tunnel’ simulations that study such cold gas in winds, the infall of this gas under gravity is at least equally important, and fundamentally different since cold gas can never entrain. Instead, velocity shear increases and remains unrelenting. If these clouds are growing, they can experience a drag force due to the accretion of low-momentum gas, which dominates over ram pressure drag. This leads to subvirial terminal velocities, in line with observations. We develop simple analytic theory and predictions based on turbulent radiative mixing layers. We test these scalings in 3D hydrodynamic simulations, both for an artificial constant background and a more realistic stratified background. We find that the survival criterion for infalling gas is more stringent than in a wind, requiring that clouds grow faster than they are destroyed ($t_{\rm grow} \lt 4\, t_{\rm cc}$). This can be translated to a critical pressure, which for Milky Way-like conditions is $P \sim 3000 \, {k}_\mathrm{ B} \, {\rm K}\, {\rm cm}^{-3}$. Cold gas that forms via linear thermal instability (tcool/tff < 1) in planar geometry meets the survival threshold. In stratified environments, larger clouds need only survive infall until cooling becomes effective. We discuss applications to high-velocity clouds and filaments in galaxy clusters.

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Publisher / Repository:
Oxford University Press
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Medium: X Size: p. 2571-2592
["p. 2571-2592"]
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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