Thermal instability in the CGM of Lgalaxies: Testing 'precipitation' models with the FIRE simulations

Clarke J. Esmerian, Andrey V. Kravtsov, Zachary Hafen, Claude André Faucher-Giguère, Eliot Quataert, Jonathan Stern, Dušan Kereš, Andrew Wetzel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations

Abstract

We examine the thermodynamic state and cooling of the low-z circumgalactic medium (CGM) in five FIRE-2 galaxy formation simulations of Milky Way-mass galaxies. We find that the CGM in these simulations is generally multiphase and dynamic, with a wide spectrum of largely non-linear density perturbations sourced by the accretion of gas from the intergalactic medium (IGM) and outflows from both the central and satellite galaxies. We investigate the origin of the multiphase structure of the CGM with a particle-tracking analysis and find that most of the low-entropy gas has cooled from the hot halo as a result of thermal instability triggered by these perturbations. The ratio of cooling to free-fall time-scales tcool/tff in the hot component of the CGM spans a wide range of ∼1-100 at a given radius but exhibits approximately constant median values of ∼5-20 at all radii 0.1Rvir < r < Rvir. These are similar to the ≈10-20 value typically adopted as the thermal instability threshold in 'precipitation' models of the ICM. Consequently, a one-dimensional model based on the assumption of a constant tcool/tff and hydrostatic equilibrium approximately reproduces the number density and entropy profiles of each simulation but only if it assumes the metallicity profile and temperature boundary condition taken directly from the simulation. We explicitly show that the tcool/tff value of a gas parcel in the hot component of the CGM does not predict its probability of subsequently accreting on to the central galaxy. This suggests that the value of tcool/tff is a poor predictor of thermal stability in gaseous haloes in which large-amplitude density perturbations are prevalent.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1841-1862
Number of pages22
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Volume505
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 1 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science

Keywords

  • galaxies: evolution
  • galaxies: formation
  • galaxies: haloes
  • hydrodynamics
  • instabilities

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