Journal Article

The formation and survival of discs in a ΛCDM universe

Cecilia Scannapieco, Simon D. M. White, Volker Springel and Patricia B. Tissera

in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Published on behalf of The Royal Astronomical Society

Volume 396, issue 2, pages 696-708
Published in print June 2009 | ISSN: 0035-8711
Published online June 2009 | e-ISSN: 1365-2966 | DOI:
The formation and survival of discs in a ΛCDM universe

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We study the formation of galaxies in a Λ cold dark matter (ΛCDM) universe using high-resolution hydrodynamical simulations with a multiphase treatment of gas, cooling and feedback, focusing on the formation of discs. Our simulations follow eight isolated haloes similar in mass to the Milky Way and extracted from a large cosmological simulation without restriction on spin parameter or merger history. This allows us to investigate how the final properties of the simulated galaxies correlate with the formation histories of their haloes. We find that, at z= 0, none of our galaxies contains a disc with more than 20 per cent of its total stellar mass. Four of the eight galaxies nevertheless have well-formed disc components, three have dominant spheroids and very small discs, and one is a spheroidal galaxy with no disc at all. The z= 0 spheroids are made of old stars, while discs are younger and formed from the inside-out. Neither the existence of a disc at z= 0 nor the final disc-to-total mass ratio seems to depend on the spin parameter of the halo. Discs are formed in haloes with spin parameters as low as 0.01 and as high as 0.05; galaxies with little or no disc component span the same range in spin parameter. Except for one of the simulated galaxies, all have significant discs at z≳ 2, regardless of their z= 0 morphologies. Major mergers and instabilities which arise when accreting cold gas is misaligned with the stellar disc trigger a transfer of mass from the discs to the spheroids. In some cases, discs are destroyed, while in others, they survive or reform. This suggests that the survival probability of discs depends on the particular formation history of each galaxy. A realistic ΛCDM model will clearly require weaker star formation at high redshift and later disc assembly than occurs in our models.

Keywords: methods: numerical; galaxies: formation; cosmology: theory

Journal Article.  9572 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics

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