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The Argo simulation - I. Quenching of massive galaxies at high redshift as a result of cosmological starvation


Feldmann, R; Mayer, L (2015). The Argo simulation - I. Quenching of massive galaxies at high redshift as a result of cosmological starvation. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 446(2):1939-1956.

Abstract

Observations show a prevalence of high-redshift galaxies with large stellar masses and predominantly passive stellar populations. A variety of processes have been suggested that could reduce the star formation in such galaxies to observed levels, including quasar mode feedback, virial shock heating, or galactic winds driven by stellar feedback. However, the main quenching mechanisms have yet to be identified. Here we study the origin of star formation quenching using Argo, a cosmological, hydrodynamical zoom-in simulation that follows the evolution of a massive galaxy at z ≥ 2. This simulation adopts the same subgrid recipes of the Eris simulations, which have been shown to form realistic disc galaxies, and, in one version, adopts also a mass and spatial resolution identical to Eris. The resulting galaxy has properties consistent with those of observed, massive (M* ˜ 1011 M⊙) galaxies at z ˜ 2 and with abundance matching predictions. Our models do not include active galactic nuclei (AGN) feedback indicating that supermassive black holes likely play a subordinate role in determining masses and sizes of massive galaxies at high-z. The specific star formation rate (sSFR) of the simulated galaxy matches the observed M*-sSFR relation at early times. This period of smooth stellar mass growth comes to a sudden halt at z = 3.5 when the sSFR drops by almost an order of magnitude within a few hundred Myr. The suppression is initiated by a levelling off and a subsequent reduction of the cool gas accretion rate on to the galaxy, and not by feedback processes. This `cosmological starvation' occurs as the parent dark matter halo switches from a fast collapsing mode to a slow accretion mode. Additional mechanisms, such as perhaps radio mode feedback from an AGN, are needed to quench any residual star formation of the galaxy and to maintain a low sSFR until the present time.

Abstract

Observations show a prevalence of high-redshift galaxies with large stellar masses and predominantly passive stellar populations. A variety of processes have been suggested that could reduce the star formation in such galaxies to observed levels, including quasar mode feedback, virial shock heating, or galactic winds driven by stellar feedback. However, the main quenching mechanisms have yet to be identified. Here we study the origin of star formation quenching using Argo, a cosmological, hydrodynamical zoom-in simulation that follows the evolution of a massive galaxy at z ≥ 2. This simulation adopts the same subgrid recipes of the Eris simulations, which have been shown to form realistic disc galaxies, and, in one version, adopts also a mass and spatial resolution identical to Eris. The resulting galaxy has properties consistent with those of observed, massive (M* ˜ 1011 M⊙) galaxies at z ˜ 2 and with abundance matching predictions. Our models do not include active galactic nuclei (AGN) feedback indicating that supermassive black holes likely play a subordinate role in determining masses and sizes of massive galaxies at high-z. The specific star formation rate (sSFR) of the simulated galaxy matches the observed M*-sSFR relation at early times. This period of smooth stellar mass growth comes to a sudden halt at z = 3.5 when the sSFR drops by almost an order of magnitude within a few hundred Myr. The suppression is initiated by a levelling off and a subsequent reduction of the cool gas accretion rate on to the galaxy, and not by feedback processes. This `cosmological starvation' occurs as the parent dark matter halo switches from a fast collapsing mode to a slow accretion mode. Additional mechanisms, such as perhaps radio mode feedback from an AGN, are needed to quench any residual star formation of the galaxy and to maintain a low sSFR until the present time.

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Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute for Computational Science
Dewey Decimal Classification:530 Physics
Date:January 2015
Deposited On:22 Feb 2016 14:24
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 20:05
Publisher:Oxford University Press
ISSN:0035-8711
Additional Information:This article has been accepted for publication in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society © 2015 The Authors Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Royal Astronomical Society. All rights reserved.
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1093/mnras/stu2207
Other Identification Number:arXiv:1404.3212v2

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