The impact of star formation feedback on the circumgalactic medium

Drummond Fielding, Eliot Quataert, Michael McCourt, Todd A. Thompson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

121 Scopus citations


We use idealized 3D hydrodynamic simulations to study the dynamics and thermal structure of the circumgalactic medium (CGM). Our simulations quantify the role of cooling, stellar feedback driven galactic winds and cosmological gas accretion in setting the properties of the CGM in dark matter haloes ranging from 1011 to 1012 M☉. Our simulations support a conceptual picture in which the properties of the CGM, and the key physics governing it, change markedly near a critical halo mass of Mcrit ≈ 1011.5 M☉. As in calculations without stellar feedback, above Mcrit halo gas is supported by thermal pressure created in the virial shock. The thermal properties at small radii are regulated by feedback triggered when tcool/tff ≲ 10 in the hot gas. Below Mcrit, however, there is no thermally supported halo and self-regulation at tcool/tff ∼ 10 does not apply. Instead, the gas is out of hydrostatic equilibrium and largely supported against gravity by bulk flows (turbulence and coherent inflow/outflow) arising from the interaction between cosmological gas inflow and outflowing galactic winds. In these lower mass haloes, the phase structure depends sensitively on the outflows' energy per unit mass and mass-loading, which may allow measurements of the CGM thermal state to constrain the nature of galactic winds. Our simulations account for some of the properties of the multiphase halo gas inferred from quasar absorption line observations, including the presence of significant mass at a wide range of temperatures, and the characteristic O VI and C IV column densities and kinematics. However, we underpredict the neutral hydrogen content of the z ∼ 0 CGM.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3810-3826
Number of pages17
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 1 2017
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • Cosmology: theory
  • Galaxies: evolution
  • Galaxies: formation
  • Galaxies: haloes
  • Intergalactic medium
  • Quasars: absorption lines


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