On the origin of surprisingly cold gas discs in galaxies at high redshift

Michael Kretschmer, Avishai Dekel, Romain Teyssier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


We address the puzzling observational indications for very 'cold' galactic discs at redshifts z ≲ 3, an epoch when discs are expected to be highly perturbed. Using a high-resolution cosmological zoom-in simulation, we identify such a cold disc at z ∼3.5, with a rotation velocity to velocity dispersion ratio of vφ/σr ∼ 5 for the total gas. It forms as a result of a period of intense accretion of co-planar, co-rotating gas via cold cosmic-web streams. This thin disc survives for ∼5 orbital periods, after which it is disrupted by mergers and counter-rotating streams, longer but consistent with our estimate that a galaxy of this mass (M ∼ 1010 M⊙ ) typically survives merger-driven spin flips for ∼2-3 orbital periods. We find that vφ/σr is highly sensitive to the tracer used to perform the kinematic analysis. While it is vφ/σr ∼ 3.5 for atomic H i gas, it is vφ/σr ∼ 8 for molecular CO and H2. This reflects the confinement of molecular gas to cold, dense clouds that reside near the disc mid-plane, while the atomic gas is spread into a turbulent and more extended thicker disc. The proposed mechanisms is a theoretical proposal that has not been validated yet with proper statistical measurements and it remains unclear whether it occurs frequently enough to explain the multiple discoveries of cold gas discs in high-z galaxies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3266-3275
Number of pages10
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • Galaxies: evolution
  • Galaxies: formation
  • Galaxies: high-redshift
  • Galaxies: kinematics and dynamics


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