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  1. Abstract

    The circumgalactic medium (CGM) plays a pivotal role in regulating gas flows around galaxies and thus shapes their evolution. However, the details of how galaxies and their CGM coevolve remain poorly understood. We present a new time-dependent two-zone model that self-consistently tracks not just mass and metal flows between galaxies and their CGM but also the evolution of the global thermal and turbulent kinetic energy of the CGM. Our model accounts for heating and turbulence driven by both supernova winds and cosmic accretion as well as radiative cooling, turbulence dissipation, and halo outflows due to CGM overpressurization. We demonstrate that, depending on parameters, the CGM can undergo a phase transition (“thermalization”) from a cool, turbulence-supported phase to a virial-temperature, thermally supported phase. This CGM phase transition is largely determined by the ability of radiative cooling to balance heating from supernova winds and turbulence dissipation. We perform an initial calibration of our model to the FIRE-2 cosmological hydrodynamical simulations and show that it can approximately reproduce the baryon cycles of the simulated halos. In particular, we find that, for these parameters, the phase transition occurs at high redshift in ultrafaint progenitors and at low redshift in classicalMvir∼ 1011Mdwarfs, while Milky Way–mass halos undergo the transition atz≈ 0.5. We see a similar transition in the simulations though it is more gradual, likely reflecting radial dependence and multiphase gas not captured by our model. We discuss these and other limitations of the model and possible future extensions.

     
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available October 1, 2024
  2. Abstract

    We use medium- and high-resolution spectroscopy of close pairs of quasars to analyze the circumgalactic medium (CGM) surrounding 32 damped Lyαabsorption systems (DLAs). The primary quasar sightline in each pair probes an intervening DLA in the redshift range 1.6 <zabs< 3.5, such that the secondary sightline probes absorption from Lyαand a large suite of metal-line transitions (including Oi, Cii, Civ, Siii, and Siiv) in the DLA host galaxy’s CGM at transverse distances 24 kpc ≤R≤ 284 kpc. Analysis of Lyαin the CGM sightlines shows an anticorrelation betweenRand Hicolumn density (NHI) with 99.8% confidence, similar to that observed around luminous galaxies. The incidences of Ciiand SiiiwithN> 1013cm−2within 100 kpc of DLAs are larger by 2σthan those measured in the CGM of Lyman break galaxies (Cf(NCII) > 0.89 andCf(NSiII)=0.750.17+0.12). Metallicity constraints derived from ionic ratios for nine CGM systems with negligible ionization corrections andNHI> 1018.5cm−2show a significant degree of scatter (with metallicities/limits across the range2.06logZ/Z0.75), suggesting inhomogeneity in the metal distribution in these environments. Velocity widths of Civλ1548 and low-ionization metal species in the DLA versus CGM sightlines are strongly (>2σ) correlated, suggesting that they trace the potential well of the host halo overR≲ 300 kpc scales. At the same time, velocity centroids for Civλ1548 differ in DLA versus CGM sightlines by >100 km s−1for ∼50% of velocity components, but few components have velocities that would exceed the escape velocity assuming dark matter host halos of ≥1012M.

     
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  3. ABSTRACT

    We investigate the formation of Milky Way–mass galaxies using FIRE-2 ΛCDM cosmological zoom-in simulations by studying the orbital evolution of stars formed in the main progenitor of the galaxy, from birth to the present day. We classify in situ stars as isotropic spheroid, thick-disc, and thin-disc according to their orbital circularities and show that these components are assembled in a time-ordered sequence from early to late times, respectively. All simulated galaxies experience an early phase of bursty star formation that transitions to a late-time steady phase. This transition coincides with the time that the inner CGM virializes. During the early bursty phase, galaxies have irregular morphologies and new stars are born on radial orbits; these stars evolve into an isotropic spheroidal population today. The bulk of thick-disc stars form at intermediate times, during a clumpy-disc ‘spin-up’ phase, slightly later than the peak of spheroid formation. At late times, once the CGM virializes and star formation ‘cools down,’ stars are born on circular orbits within a narrow plane. Those stars mostly inhabit thin discs today. Broadly speaking, stars with disc-like or spheroid-like orbits today were born that way. Mergers on to discs and secular processes do affect kinematics in our simulations, but play only secondary roles in populating thick-disc and in situ spheroid populations at z = 0. The age distributions of spheroid, thick disc, and thin disc populations scale self-similarly with the steady-phase transition time, which suggests that morphological age dating can be linked to the CGM virialization time in galaxies.

     
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  4. ABSTRACT

    The current generation of galaxy simulations can resolve individual giant molecular clouds, the progenitors of dense star clusters. But the evolutionary fate of these young massive clusters, and whether they can become the old globular clusters (GCs) observed in many galaxies, is determined by a complex interplay of internal dynamical processes and external galactic effects. We present the first star-by-star N-body models of massive (N ∼ 105–107) star clusters formed in a FIRE-2 MHD simulation of a Milky Way-mass galaxy, with the relevant initial conditions and tidal forces extracted from the cosmological simulation. We select 895 (∼30 per cent) of the YMCs with >6 × 104 M⊙ from Grudić et al. 2022 and integrate them to z = 0 using the cluster Monte Carlo code, CMC. This procedure predicts a MW-like system with 148 GCs, predominantly formed during the early, bursty mode of star formation. Our GCs are younger, less massive, and more core-collapsed than clusters in the Milky Way or M31. This results from the assembly history and age-metallicity relationship of the host galaxy: Younger clusters are preferentially born in stronger tidal fields and initially retain fewer stellar-mass black holes, causing them to lose mass faster and reach core collapse sooner than older GCs. Our results suggest that the masses and core/half-light radii of GCs are shaped not only by internal dynamical processes, but also by the specific evolutionary history of their host galaxies. These results emphasize that N-body studies with realistic stellar physics are crucial to understanding the evolution and present-day properties of GC systems.

     
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  5. ABSTRACT

    Milky Way-mass galaxies in the FIRE-2 simulations demonstrate two main modes of star formation. At high redshifts star formation occurs in a series of short and intense bursts, while at low redshifts star formation proceeds at a steady rate with a transition from one mode to another at times ranging from 3 to 7 Gyr ago for different galaxies. We analyse how the mode of star formation affects iron and alpha-element abundance. We find that the early bursty regime imprints a measurable pattern in stellar elemental abundances in the form of a ‘sideways chevron’ shape on the [Fe/H] – [O/Fe] plane and the scatter in [O/Fe] at a given stellar age is higher than when a galaxy is in the steady regime. That suggests that the evolution of [O/Fe] scatter with age provides an estimate of the end of the bursty phase. We investigate the feasibility of observing of this effect by adding mock observational errors to a simulated stellar survey and find that the transition between the bursty and steady phase should be detectable in the Milky Way, although larger observational uncertainties make the transition shallower. We apply our method to observations of the Milky Way from the Second APOKASC Catalogue and estimate that the transition to steady star formation in the Milky Way happened 7 – 8 Gyrs ago, earlier than transition times measured in the simulations.

     
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  6. ABSTRACT

    The properties of young star clusters formed within a galaxy are thought to vary in different interstellar medium conditions, but the details of this mapping from galactic to cluster scales are poorly understood due to the large dynamic range involved in galaxy and star cluster formation. We introduce a new method for modelling cluster formation in galaxy simulations: mapping giant molecular clouds (GMCs) formed self-consistently in a FIRE-2 magnetohydrodynamic galaxy simulation on to a cluster population according to a GMC-scale cluster formation model calibrated to higher resolution simulations, obtaining detailed properties of the galaxy’s star clusters in mass, metallicity, space, and time. We find $\sim 10{{\ \rm per\ cent}}$ of all stars formed in the galaxy originate in gravitationally bound clusters overall, and this fraction increases in regions with elevated Σgas and ΣSFR, because such regions host denser GMCs with higher star formation efficiency. These quantities vary systematically over the history of the galaxy, driving variations in cluster formation. The mass function of bound clusters varies – no single Schechter-like or power-law distribution applies at all times. In the most extreme episodes, clusters as massive as 7 × 106 M⊙ form in massive, dense clouds with high star formation efficiency. The initial mass–radius relation of young star clusters is consistent with an environmentally dependent 3D density that increases with Σgas and ΣSFR. The model does not reproduce the age and metallicity statistics of old ($\gt 11\rm Gyr$) globular clusters found in the Milky Way, possibly because it forms stars more slowly at z > 3.

     
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  7. ABSTRACT

    Recent observations and simulations indicate substantial evolution in the properties of galaxies with time, wherein rotationally supported and steady thin discs (like those frequently observed in the local Universe) emerge from galaxies that are clumpy, irregular, and have bursty star formation rates (SFRs). To better understand the progenitors of local disc galaxies, we carry out an analysis of three FIRE-2 simulated galaxies with a mass similar to the Milky Way at redshift z = 0. We show that all three galaxies transition from bursty to steady SFRs at a redshift between z = 0.5 and z = 0.8, and that this transition coincides with the rapid (≲1 Gyr) emergence of a rotationally supported interstellar medium (ISM). In the late phase with steady SFR, the rotational energy comprises ${\gtrsim }90{{\ \rm per\ cent}}$ of the total kinetic + thermal energy in the ISM, and is roughly half the gravitational energy. By contrast, during the early bursty phase, the ISM initially has a quasi-spheroidal morphology and its energetics are dominated by quasi-isotropic in- and outflows out of virial equilibrium. The subdominance of rotational support and out-of-equilibrium conditions at early times challenge the application of standard equilibrium disc models to high-redshift progenitors of Milky Way-like galaxies. We further find that the formation of a rotationally-supported ISM coincides with the onset of a thermal pressure supported inner circumgalactic medium (CGM). Before this transition, there is no clear boundary between the ISM and the inner CGM.

     
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  8. ABSTRACT

    As they grow, galaxies can transition from irregular/spheroidal with ‘bursty’ star formation histories (SFHs), to discy with smooth SFHs. But even in simulations, the direct physical cause of such transitions remains unclear. We therefore explore this in a large suite of numerical experiments re-running portions of cosmological simulations with widely varied physics, further validated with existing FIRE simulations. We show that gas supply, cooling/thermodynamics, star formation model, Toomre scale, galaxy dynamical times, and feedback properties do not have a direct causal effect on these transitions. Rather, both the formation of discs and cessation of bursty star formation are driven by the gravitational potential, but in different ways. Disc formation is promoted when the mass profile becomes sufficiently centrally concentrated in shape (relative to circularization radii): we show that this provides a well-defined dynamical centre, ceases to support the global ‘breathing modes’ that can persist indefinitely in less-concentrated profiles and efficiently destroy discs, promotes orbit mixing to form a coherent angular momentum, and stabilizes the disc. Smooth SF is promoted by the potential or escape velocity Vesc (not circular velocity Vc) becoming sufficiently large at the radii of star formation that cool, mass-loaded (momentum-conserving) outflows are trapped/confined near the galaxy, as opposed to escaping after bursts. We discuss the detailed physics, how these conditions arise in cosmological contexts, their relation to other correlated phenomena (e.g. inner halo virialization, vertical disc ‘settling’), and observations.

     
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  9. Abstract We describe a public data release of the FIRE-2 cosmological zoom-in simulations of galaxy formation (available at http://flathub.flatironinstitute.org/fire ) from the Feedback In Realistic Environments (FIRE) project. FIRE-2 simulations achieve parsec-scale resolution to explicitly model the multiphase interstellar medium while implementing direct models for stellar evolution and feedback, including stellar winds, core-collapse and Type Ia supernovae, radiation pressure, photoionization, and photoelectric heating. We release complete snapshots from three suites of simulations. The first comprises 20 simulations that zoom in on 14 Milky Way (MW)–mass galaxies, five SMC/LMC-mass galaxies, and four lower-mass galaxies including one ultrafaint; we release 39 snapshots across z = 0–10. The second comprises four massive galaxies, with 19 snapshots across z = 1–10. Finally, a high-redshift suite comprises 22 simulations, with 11 snapshots across z = 5–10. Each simulation also includes dozens of resolved lower-mass (satellite) galaxies in its zoom-in region. Snapshots include all stored properties for all dark matter, gas, and star particles, including 11 elemental abundances for stars and gas, and formation times (ages) of star particles. We also release accompanying (sub)halo catalogs, which include galaxy properties and member star particles. For the simulations to z = 0, including all MW-mass galaxies, we release the formation coordinates and an “ex situ” flag for all star particles, pointers to track particles across snapshots, catalogs of stellar streams, and multipole basis expansions for the halo mass distributions. We describe publicly available python packages for reading and analyzing these simulations. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available March 23, 2024
  10. ABSTRACT

    We use FIRE-2 zoom cosmological simulations of Milky Way size Galaxy haloes to calculate astrophysical J-factors for dark matter annihilation and indirect detection studies. In addition to velocity-independent (s-wave) annihilation cross-sections 〈σv〉, we also calculate effective J-factors for velocity-dependent models, where the annihilation cross-section is either p-wave (∝ v2/c2) or d-wave (∝ v4/c4). We use 12 pairs of simulations, each run with dark matter-only (DMO) physics and FIRE-2 physics. We observe FIRE runs produce central dark matter velocity dispersions that are systematically larger than in DMO runs by factors of ∼2.5–4. They also have a larger range of central (∼400 pc) dark matter densities than the DMO runs (ρFIRE/ρDMO ≃ 0.5–3) owing to the competing effects of baryonic contraction and feedback. At 3 deg from the Galactic Centre, FIRE J-factors are 3–60 (p-wave) and 10–500 (d-wave) times higher than in the DMO runs. The change in s-wave signal at 3 deg is more modest and can be higher or lower (∼0.3–7), though the shape of the emission profile is flatter (less peaked towards the Galactic Centre) and more circular on the sky in FIRE runs. Our results for s-wave are broadly consistent with the range of assumptions in most indirect detection studies. We observe p-wave J-factors that are significantly enhanced compared to most past estimates. We find that thermal models with p-wave annihilation may be within range of detection in the near future.

     
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