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  1. Abstract Extended, old, and round stellar halos appear to be ubiquitous around high-mass dwarf galaxies (10 8.5 < M ⋆ / M ⊙ < 10 9.6 ) in the observed universe. However, it is unlikely that these dwarfs have undergone a sufficient number of minor mergers to form stellar halos that are composed of predominantly accreted stars. Here, we demonstrate that FIRE-2 (Feedback in Realistic Environments) cosmological zoom-in simulations are capable of producing dwarf galaxies with realistic structures, including both a thick disk and round stellar halo. Crucially, these stellar halos are formed in situ, largely via the outward migration of disk stars. However, there also exists a large population of “nondisky” dwarfs in FIRE-2 that lack a well-defined disk/halo and do not resemble the observed dwarf population. These nondisky dwarfs tend to be either more gas-poor or to have burstier recent star formation histories than the disky dwarfs, suggesting that star formation feedback may be preventing disk formation. Both classes of dwarfs underscore the power of a galaxy’s intrinsic shape—which is a direct quantification of the distribution of the galaxy’s stellar content—to interrogate the feedback implementation in simulated galaxies.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 1, 2023
  2. Abstract We present the empirical dust attenuation (EDA) framework—a flexible prescription for assigning realistic dust attenuation to simulated galaxies based on their physical properties. We use the EDA to forward model synthetic observations for three state-of-the-art large-scale cosmological hydrodynamical simulations: SIMBA, IllustrisTNG, and EAGLE. We then compare the optical and UV color–magnitude relations, ( g − r ) − M r and (far-UV −near-UV) − M r , of the simulations to a M r < − 20 and UV complete Sloan Digital Sky Survey galaxy sample using likelihood-free inference. Without dust, none of the simulations match observations, as expected. With the EDA, however, we can reproduce the observed color–magnitude with all three simulations. Furthermore, the attenuation curves predicted by our dust prescription are in good agreement with the observed attenuation–slope relations and attenuation curves of star-forming galaxies. However, the EDA does not predict star-forming galaxies with low A V since simulated star-forming galaxies are intrinsically much brighter than observations. Additionally, the EDA provides, for the first time, predictions on the attenuation curves of quiescent galaxies, which are challenging to measure observationally. Simulated quiescent galaxies require shallower attenuation curves with lower amplitude than star-forming galaxies. The EDA, combined with forwardmore »modeling, provides an effective approach for shedding light on dust in galaxies and probing hydrodynamical simulations. This work also illustrates a major limitation in comparing galaxy formation models: by adjusting dust attenuation, simulations that predict significantly different galaxy populations can reproduce the same UV and optical observations.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available February 1, 2023
  3. Abstract We present the complete set of Hubble Space Telescope imaging of the binary neutron star merger GW170817 and its optical counterpart AT 2017gfo. Including deep template imaging in F814W, F110W, F140W, and F160W at 3.4 yr post-merger, we reanalyze the full light curve of AT 2017gfo across 12 bands from 5 to 1273 rest-frame days after merger. We obtain four new detections of the short γ -ray burst 170817A afterglow from 109 to 170 rest-frame days post-merger. These detections are consistent with the previously observed β = −0.6 spectral index in the afterglow light curve with no evidence for spectral evolution. We also analyze our limits in the context of kilonova afterglow or IR dust echo emission but find that our limits are not constraining for these models. We use the new data to construct deep optical and IR stacks, reaching limits of M = −6.3 to −4.6 mag, to analyze the local environment around AT 2017gfo and low surface brightness features in its host galaxy NGC 4993. We rule out the presence of any globular cluster at the position of AT 2017gfo to 2.3 × 10 4 L ⊙ , including those with the reddest V − Hmore »colors. Finally, we analyze the substructure of NGC 4993 in deep residual imaging and find shell features that extend up to 71.″8 (14.2 kpc) from NGC 4993. The shells have a cumulative stellar mass of 6.3 × 10 8 M ⊙ , roughly 2% of NGC 4993, and mass-weighted ages of >3 Gyr. We conclude that it was unlikely that the GW170817 progenitor system formed in the galaxy merger.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available February 1, 2023

    We use FIRE simulations to study disc formation in z ∼ 0, Milky Way-mass galaxies, and conclude that a key ingredient for the formation of thin stellar discs is the ability for accreting gas to develop an aligned angular momentum distribution via internal cancellation prior to joining the galaxy. Among galaxies with a high fraction ($\gt 70{{\ \rm per\ cent}}$) of their young stars in a thin disc (h/R ∼ 0.1), we find that: (i) hot, virial-temperature gas dominates the inflowing gas mass on halo scales (≳20 kpc), with radiative losses offset by compression heating; (ii) this hot accretion proceeds until angular momentum support slows inward motion, at which point the gas cools to $\lesssim 10^4\, {\rm K}$; (iii) prior to cooling, the accreting gas develops an angular momentum distribution that is aligned with the galaxy disc, and while cooling transitions from a quasi-spherical spatial configuration to a more-flattened, disc-like configuration. We show that the existence of this ‘rotating cooling flow’ accretion mode is strongly correlated with the fraction of stars forming in a thin disc, using a sample of 17 z ∼ 0 galaxies spanning a halo mass range of 1010.5 M⊙ ≲ Mh ≲ 1012 M⊙ and stellarmore »mass range of 108 M⊙ ≲ M⋆ ≲ 1011 M⊙. Notably, galaxies with a thick disc or irregular morphology do not undergo significant angular momentum alignment of gas prior to accretion and show no correspondence between halo gas cooling and flattening. Our results suggest that rotating cooling flows (or, more generally, rotating subsonic flows) that become coherent and angular momentum-supported prior to accretion on to the galaxy are likely a necessary condition for the formation of thin, star-forming disc galaxies in a ΛCDM universe.

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  5. ABSTRACT Understanding the rate at which stars form is central to studies of galaxy formation. Observationally, the star formation rates (SFRs) of galaxies are measured using the luminosity in different frequency bands, often under the assumption of a time-steady SFR in the recent past. We use star formation histories (SFHs) extracted from cosmological simulations of star-forming galaxies from the FIRE project to analyse the time-scales to which the H α and far-ultraviolet (FUV) continuum SFR indicators are sensitive. In these simulations, the SFRs are highly time variable for all galaxies at high redshift, and continue to be bursty to z = 0 in dwarf galaxies. When FIRE SFHs are partitioned into their bursty and time-steady phases, the best-fitting FUV time-scale fluctuates from its ∼10 Myr value when the SFR is time-steady to ≳100 Myr immediately following particularly extreme bursts of star formation during the bursty phase. On the other hand, the best-fitting averaging time-scale for H α is generally insensitive to the SFR variability in the FIRE simulations and remains ∼5 Myr at all times. These time-scales are shorter than the 100 and 10 Myr time-scales sometimes assumed in the literature for FUV and H α, respectively, because while the FUV emission persists for stellar populations oldermore »than 100 Myr, the time-dependent luminosities are strongly dominated by younger stars. Our results confirm that the ratio of SFRs inferred using H α versus FUV can be used to probe the burstiness of star formation in galaxies.« less