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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

    Without active galactic nucleus (AGN) feedback, simulated massive, star-forming galaxies become too compact relative to observed galaxies at z ≲ 2. In this paper, we perform high-resolution re-simulations of a massive ($M_{\star }\sim 10^{11}\, \rm {{\rm M}_{\odot }}$) galaxy at z ∼ 2.3, drawn from the Feedback in Realistic Environments (FIRE) project. In the simulation without AGN feedback, the galaxy experiences a rapid starburst and shrinking of its half-mass radius. We experiment with driving mechanical AGN winds, using a state-of-the-art hyper-Lagrangian refinement technique to increase particle resolution. These winds reduce the gas surface density in the inner regions of the galaxy, suppressing the compact starburst and maintaining an approximately constant half-mass radius. Using radiative transfer, we study the impact of AGN feedback on the magnitude and extent of the multiwavelength continuum emission. When AGN winds are included, the suppression of the compact, dusty starburst results in lowered flux at FIR wavelengths (due to decreased star formation) but increased flux at optical-to-near-IR wavelengths (due to decreased dust attenuation, in spite of the lowered star formation rate), relative to the case without AGN winds. The FIR half-light radius decreases from ∼1 to $\sim 0.1\, \rm {kpc}$ in $\lesssim 40\, \rm {Myr}$ when AGN winds are not included, but increases to $\sim 2\, \rm {kpc}$ when they are. Interestingly, the half-light radius at optical-NIR wavelengths remains approximately constant over $35\, \rm {Myr}$, for simulations with and without AGN winds. In the case without winds, this occurs despite the rapid compaction, and is due to heavy dust obscuration in the inner regions of the galaxy. This work highlights the importance of forward-modelling when comparing simulated and observed galaxy populations.

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  3. Abstract

    We present Firefly, a new browser-based interactive tool for visualizing 3D particle data sets. On a typical personal computer, Firefly can simultaneously render and enable real-time interactions with ≳10 million particles, and can interactively explore data sets with billions of particles using the included custom-built octree render engine. Once created, viewing a Firefly visualization requires no installation and is immediately usable in most modern internet browsers simply by visiting a URL. As a result, a Firefly visualization works out-of-the-box on most devices including smartphones and tablets. Firefly is primarily developed for researchers to explore their own data, but can also be useful to communicate results to researchers and/or collaborators and as an effective public outreach tool. Every element of the user interface can be customized and disabled, enabling easy adaptation of the same visualization for different audiences with little additional effort. Creating a new Firefly visualization is simple with the provided Python data preprocessor that translates input data to a Firefly-compatible format and provides helpful methods for hosting instances of Firefly both locally and on the internet. In addition to visualizing the positions of particles, users can visualize vector fields (e.g., velocities) and also filter and color points by scalar fields. We share three examples of Firefly applied to astronomical data sets: (1) the FIRE cosmological zoom-in simulations, (2) the SDSS galaxy catalog, and (3) Gaia Data Release 3. A gallery of additional interactive demos is available

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    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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    The early growth of black holes (BHs) in high-redshift galaxies is likely feedback regulated. While radiative feedback has been extensively studied, the role of mechanical feedback has received less scrutiny to date. Here, we use high-resolution parsec-scale hydrodynamical simulations to study jet propagation and its effect on 100 M⊙ BH accretion in the dense, low-metallicity gas expected in early protogalaxies. As the jet propagates, it shocks the surrounding gas forming a jet cocoon. The cocoon consists of a rapidly cooling cold phase at the interface with the background gas and an overpressured subsonic phase of reverse shock-heated gas filling the interior. We vary the background gas density and temperature, BH feedback efficiency, and the jet model. We found that the width of the jet cocoon roughly follows a scaling derived by assuming momentum conservation in the jet-propagation direction and energy conservation in the lateral directions. Depending on the assumed gas and jet properties, the cocoon either stays elongated to large radii or isotropizes before reaching the Bondi radius, forming a nearly spherical bubble. Lower jet velocities and higher background gas densities result in self-regulation to higher momentum fluxes and elongated cocoons. In all cases, the outward cocoon momentum flux balances the inward inflowing gas momentum flux near the Bondi radius, which ultimately regulates BH accretion. The time-averaged accretion rate always remains below the Bondi rate, and exceeds the Eddington rate only if the ambient medium is dense and cold, and/or the jet is weak (low velocity and mass loading).

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    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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    Feedback from accreting supermassive black holes (SMBHs) is thought to be a primary driver of quenching in massive galaxies, but how to best implement SMBH physics into galaxy formation simulations remains ambiguous. As part of the Feedback in Realistic Environments (FIRE) project, we explore the effects of different modelling choices for SMBH accretion and feedback in a suite of ∼500 cosmological zoom-in simulations across a wide range of halo mass (1010–1013 M⊙). Within the suite, we vary the numerical schemes for BH accretion and feedback, accretion efficiency, and the strength of mechanical, radiative, and cosmic ray feedback independently. We then compare the outcomes to observed galaxy scaling relations. We find several models satisfying observational constraints for which the energetics in different feedback channels are physically plausible. Interestingly, cosmic rays accelerated by SMBHs play an important role in many plausible models. However, it is non-trivial to reproduce scaling relations across halo mass, and many model variations produce qualitatively incorrect results regardless of parameter choices. The growth of stellar and BH mass are closely related: for example, overmassive BHs tend to overquench galaxies. BH mass is most strongly affected by the choice of accretion efficiency in high-mass haloes, but by feedback efficiency in low-mass haloes. The amount of star formation suppression by SMBH feedback in low-mass haloes is determined primarily by the time-integrated feedback energy. For massive galaxies, the ‘responsiveness’ of a model (how quickly and powerfully the BH responds to gas available for accretion) is an additional important factor for quenching.

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    Accurately reproducing the thin cold gas discs observed in nearby spiral galaxies has been a long standing issue in cosmological simulations. Here, we present measurements of the radially resolved H i scale height in 22 non-interacting Milky Way-mass galaxies from the FIREbox cosmological volume. We measure the H i scale heights using five different approaches commonly used in the literature: fitting the vertical volume density distribution with a Gaussian, the distance between maximum and half-maximum of the vertical volume density distribution, a semi-empirical description using the velocity dispersion and the galactic gravitational potential, the analytic assumption of hydrostatic equilibrium, and the distance from the midplane which encloses ≳60 per cent of the H i mass. We find median H i scale heights, measured using the vertical volume distribution, that range from ∼100 pc in the galactic centres to ∼800 pc in the outskirts and are in excellent agreement with recent observational results. We speculate that the presence of a realistic multiphase interstellar medium, including cold gas, and realistic stellar feedback are the drivers behind the realistic H i scale heights.

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    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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    Several recent simulations of galaxy formation predict two main phases of supermassive black hole (BH) accretion: an early, highly intermittent phase (during which BHs are undermassive relative to local scaling relations), followed by a phase of accelerated growth. We investigate physical factors that drive the transition in BH accretion in cosmological zoom-in simulations from the FIRE project, ranging from dwarf galaxies to galaxies sufficiently massive to host luminous quasars. The simulations model multichannel stellar feedback, but neglect AGN feedback. We show that multiple physical properties, including halo mass, galaxy stellar mass, and depth of the central gravitational potential correlate with accelerated BH fuelling: constant thresholds in these properties are typically crossed within ∼0.1 Hubble time of accelerated BH fuelling. Black hole masses increase sharply when the stellar surface density in the inner 1 kpc crosses a threshold $\Sigma^\star _{1\,\rm kpc}\approx 10^{9.5} \, {\rm M_{\odot }}\,{\rm kpc}^{-2}$, a characteristic value above which gravity prevents stellar feedback from ejecting gas, and similar to the value above which galaxies are observed to quench. We further show that accelerated BH growth correlates with the emergence of long-lived thin gas discs, as well as with virialization of the inner circumgalactic medium. The halo mass Mhalo ∼ 1012 M⊙ and stellar mass M* ∼ 1010.5 M⊙ at which BH growth accelerates correspond to ∼L⋆ galaxies. The fact that stellar feedback becomes inefficient at ejecting gas from the nucleus above this mass scale may play an important role in explaining why AGN feedback appears to be most important in galaxies above L⋆.

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