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    Both observations and simulations have shown strong evidence for highly time-variable star formation in low-mass and/or high-redshift galaxies, which has important observational implications because high-redshift galaxy samples are rest-ultraviolet (rest-UV) selected and therefore particularly sensitive to the recent star formation. Using a suite of cosmological ‘zoom-in’ simulations at z > 5 from the Feedback in Realistic Environments project, we examine the implications of bursty star formation histories for observations of high-redshift galaxies with JWST. We characterize how the galaxy observability depends on the star formation history. We also investigate selection effects due to bursty star formation on the physical properties measured, such as the gas fraction, specific star formation rate, and metallicity. We find the observability to be highly time-dependent for galaxies near the survey’s limiting flux due to the star formation rate variability: as the star formation rate fluctuates, the same galaxy oscillates in and out of the observable sample. The observable fraction $f_\mathrm{obs} = 50~{{\ \rm per\ cent}}$ at z ∼ 7 and M⋆ ∼ 108.5–$10^{9}\, {\rm M}_{\odot }$ for a JWST/NIRCam survey reaching a limiting magnitude of $m^\mathrm{lim}_\mathrm{AB} \sim 29{\!-\!}30$, representative of surveys such as JADES and CEERS. JWST-detectable galaxies near the survey limit tend to have properties characteristic of galaxies in the bursty phase: on average, they show approximately 2.5 times higher cold, dense gas fractions and 20 times higher specific star formation rates at a given stellar mass than galaxies below the rest-UV detection threshold. Our study represents a first step in quantifying selection effects and the associated biases due to bursty star formation in studying high-redshift galaxy properties.

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  2. Abstract

    Recent discoveries of a significant population of bright galaxies at cosmic dawnz10have enabled critical tests of cosmological galaxy formation models. In particular, the bright end of the galaxys’ UV luminosity functions (UVLFs) appear higher than predicted by many models. Using approximately 25,000 galaxy snapshots at 8 ≤z≤ 12 in a suite of FIRE-2 cosmological “zoom-in” simulations from the Feedback in Realistic Environments (FIRE) project, we show that the observed abundance of UV-bright galaxies at cosmic dawn is reproduced in these simulations with a multichannel implementation of standard stellar feedback processes, without any fine-tuning. Notably, we find no need to invoke previously suggested modifications, such as a nonstandard cosmology, a top-heavy stellar initial mass function, or a strongly enhanced star formation efficiency. We contrast the UVLFs predicted by bursty star formation in these original simulations to those derived from star formation histories (SFHs) smoothed over prescribed timescales (e.g., 100 Myr). The comparison demonstrates that the strongly time-variable SFHs predicted by the FIRE simulations play a key role in correctly reproducing the observed, bright-end UVLFs at cosmic dawn: the bursty SFHs induce order-or-magnitude changes in the abundance of UV-bright (MUV≲ −20) galaxies atz≳ 10. The predicted bright-end UVLFs are consistent with both the spectroscopically confirmed population and the photometrically selected candidates. We also find good agreement between the predicted and observationally inferred integrated UV luminosity densities, which evolve more weakly with redshift in FIRE than suggested by some other models.

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    Understanding the star formation rate (SFR) variability and how it depends on physical properties of galaxies is important for developing and testing the theory of galaxy formation. We investigate how statistical measurements of the extragalactic background light (EBL) can shed light on this topic and complement traditional methods based on observations of individual galaxies. Using semi-empirical models of galaxy evolution and SFR indicators sensitive to different star formation time-scales (e.g. H α and ultraviolet continuum luminosities), we show that the SFR variability, quantified by the joint probability distribution of the SFR indicators (i.e. the bivariate conditional luminosity function), can be characterized as a function of galaxy mass and redshift through the cross-correlation between deep, near-infrared maps of the EBL and galaxy distributions. As an example, we consider combining upcoming SPHEREx maps of the EBL with galaxy samples from Rubin Observatory Legacy Survey of Space and Time. We demonstrate that their cross-correlation over a sky fraction of fsky ∼ 0.5 can constrain the joint SFR indicator distribution at high significance up to z ∼ 2.5 for mass-complete samples of galaxies down to $M_{*}\sim 10^9\, {\rm M}_{\odot }$. These constraints not only allow models of different SFR variability to be distinguished, but also provide unique opportunities to investigate physical mechanisms that require large number statistics such as environmental effects. The cross-correlations investigated illustrate the power of combining cosmological surveys to extract information inaccessible from each data set alone, while the large galaxy populations probed capture ensemble-averaged properties beyond the reach of targeted observations towards individual galaxies.

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    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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    Negative feedback from accreting supermassive black holes is considered crucial in suppressing star formation and quenching massive galaxies. However, several models and observations suggest that black hole feedback may have a positive effect, triggering star formation by compressing interstellar medium gas to higher densities. We investigate the dual role of black hole feedback using cosmological hydrodynamic simulations from the Feedback In Realistic Environment (FIRE) project, incorporating a novel implementation of hyper-refined accretion-disc winds. Focusing on a massive, star-forming galaxy at z ∼ 2 ($M_{\rm halo} \sim 10^{12.5}\, {\rm M}_{\odot }$), we demonstrate that strong quasar winds with a kinetic power of ∼1046 erg s−1, persisting for over 20 Myr, drive the formation of a central gas cavity and significantly reduce the surface density of star formation across the galaxy’s disc. The suppression of star formation primarily occurs by limiting the availability of gas for star formation rather than by evacuating the pre-existing star-forming gas reservoir (preventive feedback dominates over ejective feedback). Despite the overall negative impact of quasar winds, we identify several potential indicators of local positive feedback, including (1) the spatial anticorrelation between wind-dominated regions and star-forming clumps, (2) higher local star formation efficiency in compressed gas at the edge of the cavity, and (3) increased contribution of outflowing material to local star formation. Moreover, stars formed under the influence of quasar winds tend to be located at larger radial distances. Our findings suggest that both positive and negative AGN feedback can coexist within galaxies, although the local positive triggering of star formation has a minor influence on global galaxy growth.

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    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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    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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  8. 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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