Journal Article

Absorption-line systems in simulated galaxies fed by cold streams

Michele Fumagalli, J. Xavier Prochaska, Daniel Kasen, Avishai Dekel, Daniel Ceverino and Joel R. Primack

in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Published on behalf of The Royal Astronomical Society

Volume 418, issue 3, pages 1796-1821
Published in print December 2011 | ISSN: 0035-8711
Published online December 2011 | e-ISSN: 1365-2966 | DOI:
Absorption-line systems in simulated galaxies fed by cold streams

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Hydro-cosmological simulations reveal that massive galaxies at high redshift are fed by long narrow streams of merging galaxies and a smoother component of cold gas. We post-process seven high-resolution simulated galaxies with radiative transfer to study the absorption characteristics of the gas in galaxies and streams, in comparison with the statistics of observed absorption-line systems. We find that much of the stream gas is ionized by UV radiation from background and local stellar sources, but still optically thick ( cm−2) so that the streams appear as Lyman-limit systems (LLSs). At z > 3, the fraction of neutral gas in streams becomes non-negligible, giving rise to damped Lyman α absorbers (DLAs) as well. The gas in the central and incoming galaxies remains mostly neutral, responsible for DLAs. Within one (two) virial radii, the covering factor of optically thick gas is <25 per cent (10 per cent) for LLSs and <5 per cent (1 per cent) for DLAs, slowly declining with time following the universal expansion. Nevertheless, galaxies and their cold streams in the studied mass range, Mvir= 1010–1012 M, account for >30 per cent of the observed absorbers in the foreground of quasars, the rest possibly arising from smaller galaxies or the intergalactic medium. The mean metallicity in the streams is ∼1 per cent solar, much lower than in the galaxies. The simulated galaxies reproduce the Lyα-absorption equivalent widths observed around Lyman-break galaxies, but they severely underpredict the equivalent widths in metal lines, suggesting that the latter may arise from outflows. We conclude that the observed metal-poor LLSs are likely detections of the predicted cold streams. Revised analysis of the observed LLSs kinematics and simulations with more massive outflows in conjunction with the inflows may enable a clearer distinction between the signatures of the various gas modes.

Keywords: radiative transfer; galaxies: evolution; galaxies: formation; galaxies: high-redshift; intergalactic medium; quasars: absorption lines

Journal Article.  18585 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics

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