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    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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    The concurrent growth of supermassive black holes (SMBHs) and their host galaxies remains to be fully explored, especially at high redshift. While often understood as a consequence of self-regulation via AGN feedback, it can also be explained by alternative SMBH accretion models. Here, we expand on previous work by studying the growth of SMBHs with the help of a large suite of cosmological zoom-in simulations (MassiveFIRE) that are part of the Feedback in Realistic Environments (FIRE) project. The growth of SMBHs is modelled in post-processing with different black hole accretion models, placements, and merger treatments, and validated by comparing to on-the-fly calculations. Scaling relations predicted by the gravitational torque-driven accretion (GTDA) model agree with observations at low redshift without the need for AGN feedback, in contrast to models in which the accretion rate depends strongly on SMBH mass. At high redshift, we find deviations from the local scaling relations in line with previous theoretical results. In particular, SMBHs are undermassive, presumably due to stellar feedback, but start to grow efficiently once their host galaxies reach M* ∼ 1010M⊙. We analyse and explain these findings in the context of a simple analytic model. Finally, we show that the predicted scalingmore »relations depend sensitively on the SMBH location and the efficiency of SMBH merging, particularly in low-mass systems. These findings highlight the relevance of understanding the evolution of SMBH-galaxy scaling relations to predict the rate of gravitational wave signals from SMBH mergers across cosmic history.

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    Previous studies of fueling black holes in galactic nuclei have argued (on scales ${\sim}0.01{-}1000\,$pc) accretion is dynamical with inflow rates $\dot{M}\sim \eta \, M_{\rm gas}/t_{\rm dyn}$ in terms of gas mass Mgas, dynamical time tdyn, and some η. But these models generally neglected expulsion of gas by stellar feedback, or considered extremely high densities where expulsion is inefficient. Studies of star formation, however, have shown on sub-kpc scales the expulsion efficiency fwind = Mejected/Mtotal scales with the gravitational acceleration as $(1-f_{\rm wind})/f_{\rm wind}\sim \bar{a}_{\rm grav}/\langle \dot{p}/m_{\ast }\rangle \sim \Sigma _{\rm eff}/\Sigma _{\rm crit}$ where $\bar{a}_{\rm grav}\equiv G\, M_{\rm tot}(\lt r)/r^{2}$ and $\langle \dot{p}/m_{\ast }\rangle$ is the momentum injection rate from young stars. Adopting this as the simplest correction for stellar feedback, $\eta \rightarrow \eta \, (1-f_{\rm wind})$, we show this provides a more accurate description of simulations with stellar feedback at low densities. This has immediate consequences, predicting the slope and normalization of the MBH − σ and MBH − Mbulge relation, LAGN −SFR relations, and explanations for outliers in compact Es. Most strikingly, because star formation simulations show expulsion is efficient (fwind ∼ 1) below total-mass surface density $M_{\rm tot}/\pi \, r^{2}\lt \Sigma _{\rm crit}\sim 3\times 10^{9}\, \mathrm{M}_{\odotmore »}\, {\rm kpc^{-2}}$ (where $\Sigma _{\rm crit}=\langle \dot{p}/m_{\ast }\rangle /(\pi \, G)$), BH mass is predicted to specifically trace host galaxy properties above a critical surface brightness Σcrit (B-band $\mu _{\rm B}^{\rm crit}\sim 19\, {\rm mag\, arcsec^{-2}}$). This naturally explains why BH masses preferentially reflect bulge properties or central surface densities (e.g. $\Sigma _{1\, {\rm kpc}}$), not ‘total’ galaxy properties.

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    Observations indicate that a continuous supply of gas is needed to maintain observed star formation rates in large, discy galaxies. To fuel star formation, gas must reach the inner regions of such galaxies. Despite its crucial importance for galaxy evolution, how and where gas joins galaxies is poorly constrained observationally and rarely explored in fully cosmological simulations. To investigate gas accretion in the vicinity of galaxies at low redshift, we analyse the FIRE-2 cosmological zoom-in simulations for 4 Milky Way mass galaxies (Mhalo ∼ 1012M⊙), focusing on simulations with cosmic ray physics. We find that at z ∼ 0, gas approaches the disc with angular momentum similar to the gaseous disc edge and low radial velocities, piling-up near the edge and settling into full rotational support. Accreting gas moves predominately parallel to the disc and joins largely in the outskirts. Immediately prior to joining the disc, trajectories briefly become more vertical on average. Within the disc, gas motion is complex, being dominated by spiral arm induced oscillations and feedback. However, time and azimuthal averages show slow net radial infall with transport speeds of 1–3 km s−1 and net mass fluxes through the disc of ∼M⊙ yr−1, comparable to the galaxies’ starmore »formation rates and decreasing towards galactic centre as gas is sunk into star formation. These rates are slightly higher in simulations without cosmic rays (1–7 km s−1, ∼4–5 M⊙ yr−1). We find overall consistency of our results with observational constraints and discuss prospects of future observations of gas flows in and around galaxies.

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    Galaxy sizes correlate closely with the sizes of their parent dark matter haloes, suggesting a link between halo formation and galaxy growth. However, the precise nature of this relation and its scatter remains to be understood fully, especially for low-mass galaxies. We analyse the galaxy–halo size relation (GHSR) for low-mass ($M_\star \sim 10^{7-9}\, {\rm M}_\odot$) central galaxies over the past 12.5 billion years with the help of cosmological volume simulations (FIREbox) from the Feedback in Realistic Environments (FIRE) project. We find a nearly linear relationship between the half-stellar mass galaxy size R1/2 and the parent dark matter halo virial radius Rvir. This relation evolves only weakly since redshift z = 5: $R_{1/2}\, [{\rm kpc}] = (0.053\pm 0.002)(R_{\rm vir}/35\, {\rm kpc})^{0.934\pm 0.054}$, with a nearly constant scatter $\langle \sigma \rangle = 0.084\, [{\rm dex}]$. While this ratio is similar to what is expected from models where galaxy disc sizes are set by halo angular momentum, the low-mass galaxies in our sample are not angular momentum supported, with stellar rotational to circular velocity ratios vrot/vcirc ∼ 0.15. Introducing redshift as another parameter to the GHSR does not decrease the scatter. Furthermore, this scatter does not correlate with any of the halo propertiesmore »we investigate – including spin and concentration – suggesting that baryonic processes and feedback physics are instead critical in setting the scatter in the GHSR. Given the relatively small scatter and the weak dependence of the GHSR on redshift and halo properties for these low-mass central galaxies, we propose using galaxy sizes as an independent method from stellar masses to infer halo masses.

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    While many tensions between Local Group (LG) satellite galaxies and Λ cold dark matter cosmology have been alleviated through recent cosmological simulations, the spatial distribution of satellites remains an important test of physical models and physical versus numerical disruption in simulations. Using the FIRE-2 cosmological zoom-in baryonic simulations, we examine the radial distributions of satellites with $M_*\gt 10^5$ M⊙ around eight isolated Milky Way (MW) mass host galaxies and four hosts in LG-like pairs. We demonstrate that these simulations resolve the survival and physical destruction of satellites with $M_*\gtrsim 10^5$ M⊙. The simulations broadly agree with LG observations, spanning the radial profiles around the MW and M31. This agreement does not depend strongly on satellite mass, even at distances ≲100 kpc. Host-to-host variation dominates the scatter in satellite counts within 300 kpc of the hosts, while time variation dominates scatter within 50 kpc. More massive host galaxies within our sample have fewer satellites at small distances, likely because of enhanced tidal destruction of satellites via the baryonic discs of host galaxies. Furthermore, we quantify and provide fits to the tidal depletion of subhaloes in baryonic relative to dark matter-only simulations as a function of distance. Our simulated profiles imply observational incompleteness in the LGmore »even at $M_*\gtrsim 10^5$ M⊙: we predict 2–10 such satellites to be discovered around the MW and possibly 6–9 around M31. To provide cosmological context, we compare our results with the radial profiles of satellites around MW analogues in the SAGA survey, finding that our simulations are broadly consistent with most SAGA systems.

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    We study a suite of extremely high-resolution cosmological Feedback in Realistic Environments simulations of dwarf galaxies ($M_{\rm halo} \lesssim 10^{10}\rm \, M_{\odot }$), run to z = 0 with $30\, \mathrm{M}_{\odot }$ resolution, sufficient (for the first time) to resolve the internal structure of individual supernovae remnants within the cooling radius. Every halo with $M_{\rm halo} \gtrsim 10^{8.6}\, \mathrm{M}_{\odot }$ is populated by a resolved stellar galaxy, suggesting very low-mass dwarfs may be ubiquitous in the field. Our ultra-faint dwarfs (UFDs; $M_{\ast }\lt 10^{5}\, \mathrm{M}_{\odot }$) have their star formation (SF) truncated early (z ≳ 2), likely by reionization, while classical dwarfs ($M_{\ast }\gt 10^{5}\, \mathrm{M}_{\odot }$) continue forming stars to z < 0.5. The systems have bursty star formation histories, forming most of their stars in periods of elevated SF strongly clustered in both space and time. This allows our dwarf with M*/Mhalo > 10−4 to form a dark matter core ${\gt}200\rm \, pc$, while lower mass UFDs exhibit cusps down to ${\lesssim}100\rm \, pc$, as expected from energetic arguments. Our dwarfs with $M_{\ast }\gt 10^{4}\, \mathrm{M}_{\odot }$ have half-mass radii (R1/2) in agreement with Local Group (LG) dwarfs (dynamical mass versus R1/2 and stellar rotation also resemble observations).more »The lowest mass UFDs are below surface brightness limits of current surveys but are potentially visible in next-generation surveys (e.g. LSST). The stellar metallicities are lower than in LG dwarfs; this may reflect pre-enrichment of the LG by the massive hosts or Pop-III stars. Consistency with lower resolution studies implies that our simulations are numerically robust (for a given physical model).

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  8. Abstract In the era of large-scale spectroscopic surveys in the Local Group, we can explore using chemical abundances of halo stars to study the star formation and chemical enrichment histories of the dwarf galaxy progenitors of the Milky Way (MW) and M31 stellar halos. In this paper, we investigate using the chemical abundance ratio distributions (CARDs) of seven stellar halos from the Latte suite of FIRE-2 simulations. We attempt to infer galaxies’ assembly histories by modeling the CARDs of the stellar halos of the Latte galaxies as a linear combination of template CARDs from disrupted dwarfs, with different stellar masses M ⋆ and quenching times t 100 . We present a method for constructing these templates using present-day dwarf galaxies. For four of the seven Latte halos studied in this work, we recover the mass spectrum of accreted dwarfs to a precision of <10%. For the fraction of mass accreted as a function of t 100 , we find the residuals of 20%–30% for five of the seven simulations. We discuss the failure modes of this method, which arise from the diversity of star formation and chemical enrichment histories that dwarf galaxies can take. These failure cases can be robustlymore »identified by the high model residuals. Although the CARDs modeling method does not successfully infer the assembly histories in these cases, the CARDs of these disrupted dwarfs contain signatures of their unusual formation histories. Our results are promising for using CARDs to learn more about the histories of the progenitors of the MW and M31 stellar halos.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available August 1, 2023
  9. ABSTRACT We characterize mass, momentum, energy, and metal outflow rates of multiphase galactic winds in a suite of FIRE-2 cosmological ‘zoom-in’ simulations from the Feedback in Realistic Environments (FIRE) project. We analyse simulations of low-mass dwarfs, intermediate-mass dwarfs, Milky Way-mass haloes, and high-redshift massive haloes. Consistent with previous work, we find that dwarfs eject about 100 times more gas from their interstellar medium (ISM) than they form in stars, while this mass ‘loading factor’ drops below one in massive galaxies. Most of the mass is carried by the hot phase (>105 K) in massive haloes and the warm phase (103−105 K) in dwarfs; cold outflows (<103 K) are negligible except in high-redshift dwarfs. Energy, momentum, and metal loading factors from the ISM are of order unity in dwarfs and significantly lower in more massive haloes. Hot outflows have 2−5 × higher specific energy than needed to escape from the gravitational potential of dwarf haloes; indeed, in dwarfs, the mass, momentum, and metal outflow rates increase with radius whereas energy is roughly conserved, indicating swept up halo gas. Burst-averaged mass loading factors tend to be larger during more powerful star formation episodes and when the inner halo is not virialized, but we seemore »effectively no trend with the dense ISM gas fraction. We discuss how our results can guide future controlled numerical experiments that aim to elucidate the key parameters governing galactic winds and the resulting associated preventative feedback.« less