Journal Article

Stellar feedback in galaxies and the origin of galaxy‐scale winds

Philip F. Hopkins, Eliot Quataert and Norman Murray

in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Published on behalf of The Royal Astronomical Society

Volume 421, issue 4, pages 3522-3537
Published in print April 2012 | ISSN: 0035-8711
Published online April 2012 | e-ISSN: 1365-2966 | DOI:
Stellar feedback in galaxies and the origin of galaxy‐scale winds

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Feedback from massive stars is believed to play a critical role in driving galactic super‐winds that enrich the intergalactic medium and shape the galaxy mass function, mass–metallicity relation and other global galaxy properties. In previous papers, we have introduced new numerical methods for implementing stellar feedback on sub‐giant molecular cloud (sub‐GMC) through galactic scales in numerical simulations of galaxies; the key physical processes include radiation pressure in the ultraviolet through infrared, supernovae (Type I and Type II), stellar winds (‘fast’ O star through ‘slow’ asymptotic giant branch winds), and H ii photoionization. Here, we show that these feedback mechanisms drive galactic winds with outflow rates as high as ∼10–20 times the galaxy star formation rate. The mass‐loading efficiency (wind mass‐loss rate divided by the star formation rate) scales roughly as (where Vc is the galaxy circular velocity), consistent with simple momentum‐conservation expectations. We use our suite of simulations to study the relative contribution of each feedback mechanism to the generation of galactic winds in a range of galaxy models, from Small Magellanic Cloud like dwarfs and Milky Way (MW) analogues to z∼ 2 clumpy discs. In massive, gas‐rich systems (local starbursts and high‐z galaxies), radiation pressure dominates the wind generation. By contrast, for MW‐like spirals and dwarf galaxies the gas densities are much lower and sources of shock‐heated gas such as supernovae and stellar winds dominate the production of large‐scale outflows. In all of our models, however, the winds have a complex multiphase structure that depends on the interaction between multiple feedback mechanisms operating on different spatial scales and time‐scales: any single feedback mechanism fails to reproduce the winds observed. We use our simulations to provide fitting functions to the wind mass loading and velocities as a function of galaxy properties, for use in cosmological simulations and semi‐analytic models. These differ from typically adopted formulae with an explicit dependence on the gas surface density that can be very important in both low‐density dwarf galaxies and high‐density gas‐rich galaxies.

Keywords: stars: formation; galaxies: active; galaxies: evolution; galaxies: formation; cosmology: theory

Journal Article.  12470 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics

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