On the dynamics of supermassive black holes in gas-rich, star-forming galaxies: The case for nuclear star cluster co-evolution

Pawel Biernacki, Romain Teyssier, Andreas Bleuler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


We introduce a new model for the formation and evolution of supermassive black holes (SMBHs) in the RAMSES code using sink particles, improving over previous work the treatment of gas accretion and dynamical evolution. This new model is tested against a suite of highresolution simulations of an isolated, gas-rich, cooling halo. We study the effect of various feedback models on the SMBH growth and its dynamics within the galaxy. In runs without any feedback, the SMBH is trapped within a massive bulge and is therefore able to grow quickly, but only if the seed mass is chosen larger than the minimum Jeans mass resolved by the simulation. We demonstrate that, in the absence of supernovae (SN) feedback, the maximum SMBH mass is reached when active galactic nucleus (AGN) heating balances gas cooling in the nuclear region. When our efficient SN feedback is included, it completely prevents bulge formation, so that massive gas clumps can perturb the SMBH orbit, and reduce the accretion rate significantly. To overcome this issue, we propose an observationally motivated model for the joint evolution of the SMBH and a parent nuclear star cluster (NSC), which allows the SMBH to remain in the nuclear region, grow fast and resist external perturbations. In this scenario, however, SN feedback controls the gas supply and the maximum SMBH mass now depends on the balance between AGN heating and gravity. We conclude that SMBH/NSC co-evolution is crucial for the growth of SMBH in high-z galaxies, the progenitors of massive ellipticals today.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)295-313
Number of pages19
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 1 2017
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • Galaxies: Active
  • Galaxies: Evolution
  • Galaxies: Star clusters: General
  • Methods: numerical


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