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Fiery Cores: Bursty and Smooth Star Formation Distributions across Galaxy Centers in Cosmological Zoom-in Simulations

Orr, Matthew E. and Hatchfield, H. Perry and Battersby, Cara and Hayward, Christopher C. and Hopkins, Philip F. and Wetzel, Andrew and Benincasa, Samantha M. and Loebman, Sarah R. and Sormani, Mattia C. and Klessen, Ralf S. (2021) Fiery Cores: Bursty and Smooth Star Formation Distributions across Galaxy Centers in Cosmological Zoom-in Simulations. Astrophysical Journal Letters, 908 (2). Art. No. L31. ISSN 2041-8213. doi:10.3847/2041-8213/abdebd.

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We present an analysis of the R ≾1.5 kpc core regions of seven simulated Milky Way-mass galaxies, from the FIRE-2 (Feedback in Realistic Environments) cosmological zoom-in simulation suite, for a finely sampled period (Δt = 2.2 Myr) of 22 Myr at z ≈ 0, and compare them with star formation rate (SFR) and gas surface density observations of the Milky Way's Central Molecular Zone (CMZ). Despite not being tuned to reproduce the detailed structure of the CMZ, we find that four of these galaxies are consistent with CMZ observations at some point during this 22 Myr period. The galaxies presented here are not homogeneous in their central structures, roughly dividing into two morphological classes; (a) several of the galaxies have very asymmetric gas and SFR distributions, with intense (compact) starbursts occurring over a period of roughly 10 Myr, and structures on highly eccentric orbits through the CMZ, whereas (b) others have smoother gas and SFR distributions, with only slowly varying SFRs over the period analyzed. In class (a) centers, the orbital motion of gas and star-forming complexes across small apertures (R ≾150 pc, analogously l < 1° in the CMZ observations) contributes as much to tracers of star formation/dense gas appearing in those apertures, as the internal evolution of those structures does. These asymmetric/bursty galactic centers can simultaneously match CMZ gas and SFR observations, demonstrating that time-varying star formation can explain the CMZ's low star formation efficiency.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription Paper
Orr, Matthew E.0000-0003-1053-3081
Hatchfield, H. Perry0000-0003-0946-4365
Battersby, Cara0000-0002-6073-9320
Hayward, Christopher C.0000-0003-4073-3236
Hopkins, Philip F.0000-0003-3729-1684
Wetzel, Andrew0000-0003-0603-8942
Benincasa, Samantha M.0000-0003-4826-9079
Loebman, Sarah R.0000-0003-3217-5967
Sormani, Mattia C.0000-0001-6113-6241
Klessen, Ralf S.0000-0002-0560-3172
Additional Information:© 2021 The American Astronomical Society. Received 2020 December 4; revised 2021 January 20; accepted 2021 January 21; published 2021 February 19. The authors would like to thank Alexander Gurvich, and an anonymous referee, for helpful comments that improved the manuscript. C.B. and H.P.H. gratefully acknowledge support from the National Science Foundation under Award No. 1816715. H.P.H. thanks the LSSTC Data Science Fellowship Program, which is funded by LSSTC, NSF Cybertraining Grant #1829740, the Brinson Foundation, and the Moore Foundation; his participation in the program has benefited this work. The Flatiron Institute is supported by the Simons Foundation. A.W. received support from NASA through ATP grant 80NSSC18K1097 and HST grants GO-14734, AR-15057, AR-15809, and GO-15902 from STScI; the Heising-Simons Foundation; and a Hellman Fellowship. Support for SRL was provided by NASA through Hubble Fellowship grant HST-JF2-51395.001-A awarded by the Space Telescope Science Institute, which is operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc., for NASA, under contract NAS5-26555. R.S.K. acknowledges financial support from the German Research Foundation (DFG) via the Collaborative Research Center (SFB 881, Project-ID 138713538) "The Milky Way System" (subprojects A1, B1, B2, and B8). He is also thankful for funding from the Heidelberg Cluster of Excellence STRUCTURES in the framework of Germany's Excellence Strategy (grant EXC-2181/1-390900948) and for funding from the European Research Council via the ERC Synergy Grant ECOGAL (grant 855130).
Group:Astronomy Department, TAPIR
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Large Synoptic Survey Telescope CorporationUNSPECIFIED
Brinson FoundationUNSPECIFIED
Gordon and Betty Moore FoundationUNSPECIFIED
Simons FoundationUNSPECIFIED
NASA Hubble FellowshipGO-14734
NASA Hubble FellowshipAR-15057
NASA Hubble FellowshipAR-15809
NASA Hubble FellowshipGO-15902
Heising-Simons FoundationUNSPECIFIED
Hellman FellowshipUNSPECIFIED
NASA Hubble FellowshipHST-JF2-51395.001-A
Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)SFB 881
Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)EXC-2181/1-390900948
European Research Council (ERC)855130
Subject Keywords:Galactic center ; Star formation ; Interstellar medium ; Spiral galaxies ; Galaxy kinematics ; Stellar feedback
Issue or Number:2
Classification Code:Unified Astronomy Thesaurus concepts: Galactic center (565); Star formation (1569); Interstellar medium (847); Spiral galaxies (1560); Galaxy kinematics (602); Stellar feedback (1602)
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20210222-084450592
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:Matthew E. Orr et al 2021 ApJL 908 L31
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:108132
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:22 Feb 2021 17:25
Last Modified:16 Nov 2021 19:09

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