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Title: Gas Accretion Can Drive Turbulence in Galaxies

The driving of turbulence in galaxies is deeply connected with the physics of feedback, star formation, outflows, accretion, and radial transport in disks. The velocity dispersion of gas in galaxies therefore offers a promising observational window into these processes. However, the relative importance of each of these mechanisms remains controversial. In this work we revisit the possibility that turbulence on galactic scales is driven by the direct impact of accreting gaseous material on the disk. We measure this effect in a disk-like star-forming galaxy in IllustrisTNG, using the high-resolution cosmological magnetohydrodynamical simulation TNG50. We employ Lagrangian tracer particles with a high time cadence of only a few million years to identify accretion and other events. The energies of particles are measured by stacking the events in bins of time around the event. The average effect of each event is measured by fitting explicit models for the kinetic and turbulent energies as a function of time. These measurements are corroborated by cross-correlating the turbulent energy with other time series and searching for signals of causality, i.e., asymmetries across zero time lag. We find that accretion contributes to the large-scale turbulent kinetic energy even if it does not dominate in this more » ∼5 × 109Mstellar mass galaxy. Extrapolating this finding to a range of galaxy masses, we find that there are regimes where energy from direct accretion may dominate the turbulent energy budget, particularly in disk outskirts, galaxies less massive than the Milky Way, and at redshift ∼2.

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Publication Date:
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The Astrophysical Journal
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Article No. 107
DOI PREFIX: 10.3847
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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