skip to main content


This content will become publicly available on August 18, 2024

Title: Key Physical Processes in the Circumgalactic Medium

Spurred by rich, multiwavelength observations and enabled by new simulations, ranging from cosmological to subparsec scales, the past decade has seen major theoretical progress in our understanding of the circumgalactic medium (CGM). We review key physical processes in the CGM. Our conclusions include the following: ▪ The properties of the CGM depend on a competition between gravity-driven infall and gas cooling. When cooling is slow relative to free fall, the gas is hot (roughly virial temperature), whereas the gas is cold ( T ∼ 104K) when cooling is rapid. ▪ Gas inflows and outflows play crucial roles, as does the cosmological environment. Large-scale structure collimates cold streams and provides angular momentum. Satellite galaxies contribute to the CGM through winds and gas stripping. ▪ In multiphase gas, the hot and cold phases continuously exchange mass, energy, and momentum. The interaction between turbulent mixing and radiative cooling is critical. A broad spectrum of cold gas structures, going down to subparsec scales, arises from fragmentation, coagulation, and condensation onto gas clouds. ▪ Magnetic fields, thermal conduction, and cosmic rays can substantially modify how the cold and hot phases interact, although microphysical uncertainties are presently large. Key open questions for future work include the mutual interplay between small-scale structure and large-scale dynamics, and how the CGM affects the evolution of galaxies.

 
more » « less
Award ID(s):
1652522
NSF-PAR ID:
10475784
Author(s) / Creator(s):
;
Publisher / Repository:
Annual Reviews
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Annual Review of Astronomy and Astrophysics
Volume:
61
Issue:
1
ISSN:
0066-4146
Page Range / eLocation ID:
131 to 195
Format(s):
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. ABSTRACT

    Cold, non-self-gravitating clumps occur in various astrophysical systems, ranging from the interstellar and circumgalactic medium (CGM), to active galactic nucleus outflows and solar coronal loops. Cold gas has diverse origins such as turbulent mixing or precipitation from hotter phases. We obtain the analytical solution for a steady pressure-driven 1D cooling flow around cold, local overdensities, irrespective of their origin. Our solutions describe the slow and steady radiative cooling-driven gas inflow in the saturated regime of non-linear thermal instability in clouds, sheets, and filaments. Such a cooling flow develops when the gas around small clumps undergoes radiative cooling. These small-scale, cold ‘seeds’ are embedded in a large volume-filling hot CGM maintained by feedback. We use a simple two-fluid treatment to include magnetic fields as an additional polytropic fluid. To test the limits of applicability of these analytical solutions, we compare with the gas structure found in and around small-scale cold clouds in the CGM of massive haloes in the TNG50 cosmological magnetohydrodynamic simulation from the IllustrisTNG suite. Despite qualitative resemblance of the gas structure, we find deviations from steady-state profiles generated by our model. Complex geometries and turbulence all add complexity beyond our analytical solutions. We derive an exact relation between the mass cooling rate ($\dot{\rm M}_{\rm cool}$) and the radiative cooling rate ($\dot{\rm E}_{\rm cool}$) for a steady cooling flow. A comparison with the TNG50 clouds shows that this cooling flow relation only applies in a narrow temperature range around $\rm \sim 10^{4.5}$ K where the isobaric cooling time is the shortest. In general, turbulence and mixing, instead of radiative cooling, may dominate the transition of gas between different temperature phases.

     
    more » « less
  2. null (Ed.)
    ABSTRACT Pressure balance plays a central role in models of the interstellar medium (ISM), but whether and how pressure balance is realized in a realistic multiphase ISM is not yet well understood. We address this question by using a set of FIRE-2 cosmological zoom-in simulations of Milky Way-mass disc galaxies, in which a multiphase ISM is self-consistently shaped by gravity, cooling, and stellar feedback. We analyse how gravity determines the vertical pressure profile as well as how the total ISM pressure is partitioned between different phases and components (thermal, dispersion/turbulence, and bulk flows). We show that, on average and consistent with previous more idealized simulations, the total ISM pressure balances the weight of the overlying gas. Deviations from vertical pressure balance increase with increasing galactocentric radius and with decreasing averaging scale. The different phases are in rough total pressure equilibrium with one another, but with large deviations from thermal pressure equilibrium owing to kinetic support in the cold and warm phases, which dominate the total pressure near the mid-plane. Bulk flows (e.g. inflows and fountains) are important at a few disc scale heights, while thermal pressure from hot gas dominates at larger heights. Overall, the total mid-plane pressure is well-predicted by the weight of the disc gas and we show that it also scales linearly with the star formation rate surface density (ΣSFR). These results support the notion that the Kennicutt–Schmidt relation arises because ΣSFR and the gas surface density (Σg) are connected via the ISM mid-plane pressure. 
    more » « less
  3. ABSTRACT

    The pervasive presence of warm gas in galaxy haloes suggests that the circumgalactic medium (CGM) is multiphase in its ionization structure and complex in its kinematics. Some recent state-of-the-art cosmological galaxy simulations predict an azimuthal dependence of CGM metallicities. We investigate the presence of such a trend by analysing the distribution of gas properties in the CGM around 47 z < 0.7 galaxies from the Multiphase Galaxy Halos Survey determined using a cloud-by-cloud, multiphase, ionization modelling approach. We identify three distinct populations of absorbers: cool clouds (T ∼ 104.1 K) in photoionization equilibrium, warm–hot collisionally ionized clouds (T ∼ 104.5–105 K) affected by time-dependent photoionization, and hotter clouds (T ∼ 105.4–106 K) with broad O vi and Ly α absorption consistent with collisional ionization. We find that fragmentation can play a role in the origin of cool clouds, that warm–hot clouds are out of equilibrium due to rapid cooling, and that hotter clouds are representative of virialized halo gas in all but the lowest mass galaxies. The metallicities of clouds do not depend on the azimuthal angle or other galaxy properties for any of these populations. At face value, this disagrees with the simplistic model of the CGM with bipolar outflows and cold-mode planar accretion. However, the number of clouds per sightline is significantly larger close to the minor and major axes. This implies that the processes of outflows and accretion are contributing to these CGM cloud populations, and our sightlines are probing gas of mixed origins at all azimuthal angles in these low-redshift galaxies.

     
    more » « less
  4. Abstract

    Absorption-line measurements of the circumgalactic medium (CGM) display a highly nonuniform distribution of lower ionization state species accompanied by more widespread higher ionization state material. This suggests that the CGM is a dynamic, multiphase medium, such as arises in the presence of turbulence. To better understand this evolution, we perform hydrodynamic and magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) simulations of the CGM surrounding Milky Way–like galaxies. In both cases, the CGM is initially in hydrostatic balance in a 1012Mdark matter gravitational potential, and the simulations include rotation in the inner halo and turbulence that decreases radially. They also track ionizations, recombinations, and species-by-species radiative cooling in the presence of the redshift-zero UV background, employing the MAIHEM nonequilibrium chemistry package. We find that after 9 Gyr of evolution, the presence of a magnetic field leads to an overall hotter CGM, with cool gas in the center where magnetic pressure dominates. While the non-MHD run produces more cold clouds overall, we find similar Siiv/Oviand Nv/Oviratios between the MHD and non-MHD runs, which are both very different from their equilibrium values. The non-MHD halo develops cool, low angular momentum filaments above the central disk, in comparison to the MHD run that has more efficient angular momentum transport, especially for the cold gas, which forms a more ordered and extended disk late into its evolution.

     
    more » « less
  5. Abstract

    Magnetic fields grow quickly, even at early cosmological times, suggesting the action of a small-scale dynamo (SSD) in the interstellar medium (ISM) of galaxies. Many studies have focused on idealized, isotropic, homogeneous, turbulent driving of the SSD. Here we analyze more realistic simulations of supernova-driven turbulence to understand how it drives an SSD. We find that SSD growth rates are intermittently variable as a result of the evolving multiphase ISM structure. Rapid growth in the magnetic field typically occurs in hot gas, with the highest overall growth rates occurring when the fractional volume of hot gas is large. SSD growth rates correlate most strongly with vorticity and fluid Reynolds number, which also both correlate strongly with gas temperature. Rotational energy exceeds irrotational energy in all phases, but particularly in the hot phase while SSD growth is most rapid. Supernova rate does not significantly affect the ISM average kinetic energy density. Rather, higher temperatures associated with high supernova rates tend to increase SSD growth rates. SSD saturates with total magnetic energy density around 5% of equipartition to kinetic energy density, increasing slightly with magnetic Prandtl number. While magnetic energy density in the hot gas can exceed that of the other phases when SSD grows most rapidly, it saturates below 5% of equipartition with kinetic energy in the hot gas, while in the cold gas it attains 100%. Fast, intermittent growth of the magnetic field appears to be a characteristic behavior of supernova-driven, multiphase turbulence.

     
    more » « less