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    Recent strides have been made developing dust evolution models for galaxy formation simulations but these approaches vary in their assumptions and degree of complexity. Here, we introduce and compare two separate dust evolution models (labelled ‘Elemental’ and ‘Species’), based on recent approaches, incorporated into the gizmo code and coupled with fire-2 stellar feedback and interstellar medium physics. Both models account for turbulent dust diffusion, stellar production of dust, dust growth via gas-dust accretion, and dust destruction from time-resolved supernovae, thermal sputtering in hot gas, and astration. The ‘Elemental’ model tracks the evolution of generalized dust species and utilizes a simple, ‘tunable’ dust growth routine, while the ‘Species’ model tracks the evolution of specific dust species with set chemical compositions and incorporates a physically motivated, two-phase dust growth routine. We test and compare these models in an idealized Milky Way-mass galaxy and find that while both produce reasonable galaxy-integrated dust-to-metals (D/Z) ratios and predict gas-dust accretion as the main dust growth mechanism, a chemically motivated model is needed to reproduce the observed scaling relation between individual element depletions and D/Z with column density and local gas density. We also find the inclusion of theoretical metallic iron and O-bearing dust speciesmore »are needed in the case of specific dust species in order to match observations of O and Fe depletions, and the integration of a sub-resolution dense molecular gas/CO scheme is needed to both match observed C depletions and ensure carbonaceous dust is not overproduced in dense environments.

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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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    We investigate stellar elemental abundance patterns at $z$ = 0 in eight low-mass ($M_{*}=10^{6}{-}10^{9}\ \text{M}_{\odot }$) galaxies in the Feedback in Realistic Environments cosmological simulations. Using magnesium (Mg) as a representative α-element, we explore stellar abundance patterns in magnesium-to-iron ([Mg/Fe]) versus iron-to-hydrogen ([Fe/H]), which follow an overall monotonic trend that evolved slowly over time. Additionally, we explore three notable secondary features in enrichment (in three different case-study galaxies) that arise from a galaxy merger or bursty star formation. First, we observe a secondary track with a lower [Mg/Fe] than the main trend. At $z$ = 0, stars from this track are predominantly found within 2–6 kpc of the centre; they were accreted in a 1:3 total-mass-ratio merger ∼0.4 Gyr ago. Second, we find a distinct elemental bimodality that forms following a strong burst in star formation in a galaxy at $t_{\text{lookback}}\, \sim 10$ Gyr. This burst quenched star formation for ∼0.66 Gyr, allowing Type Ia supernovae to enrich the system with iron (Fe) before star formation resumed. Third, we examine stripes in enrichment that run roughly orthogonal to the dominant [Mg/Fe] versus [Fe/H] trend; these stripes correspond to short bursts of star formation during which core-collapse supernovae enrich the surrounding medium with Mg (andmore »Fe) on short time-scales. If observed, these features would substantiate the utility of elemental abundances in revealing the assembly and star-formation histories of dwarf galaxies. We explore the observability of these features for upcoming spectroscopic studies. Our results show that precise measurements of elemental abundance patterns can reveal critical events in the formation histories of low-mass galaxies.

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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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    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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    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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  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 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
  10. Free, publicly-accessible full text available April 1, 2023