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Published March 2023 | Published
Journal Article Open

Stellar feedback-regulated black hole growth: driving factors from nuclear to halo scales


Several recent simulations of galaxy formation predict two main phases of supermassive black hole (BH) accretion: an early, highly intermittent phase (during which BHs are undermassive relative to local scaling relations), followed by a phase of accelerated growth. We investigate physical factors that drive the transition in BH accretion in cosmological zoom-in simulations from the FIRE project, ranging from dwarf galaxies to galaxies sufficiently massive to host luminous quasars. The simulations model multichannel stellar feedback, but neglect AGN feedback. We show that multiple physical properties, including halo mass, galaxy stellar mass, and depth of the central gravitational potential correlate with accelerated BH fuelling: constant thresholds in these properties are typically crossed within ∼0.1 Hubble time of accelerated BH fuelling. Black hole masses increase sharply when the stellar surface density in the inner 1 kpc crosses a threshold Σ*₁ ₖₚ꜀~ 10(9.5) M_⊙ kpc⁻², a characteristic value above which gravity prevents stellar feedback from ejecting gas, and similar to the value above which galaxies are observed to quench. We further show that accelerated BH growth correlates with the emergence of long-lived thin gas discs, as well as with virialization of the inner circumgalactic medium. The halo mass Mₕₐₗₒ ∼ 10¹² M⊙ and stellar mass M* ∼ 10^(10.5) M_⊙ at which BH growth accelerates correspond to ∼L⋆ galaxies. The fact that stellar feedback becomes inefficient at ejecting gas from the nucleus above this mass scale may play an important role in explaining why AGN feedback appears to be most important in galaxies above L⋆.

Additional Information

© 2023 The Author(s) Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Royal Astronomical Society. This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/open_access/funder_policies/chorus/standard_publication_model). We thank Alister Graham for useful comments on scaling relations, and Eliot Quataert for useful comments and discussions. LB was supported by the Department of Energy Computer Science Graduate Fellowship through grant DE-SC0020347. CAFG was supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) through grants AST-1715216, AST-2108230, and CAREER award AST-1652522; by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) through grants 17-ATP17-0067 and 21-ATP21-0036; by the Space Telescope Science Institute through grants HST-AR-16124.001-A and HST-GO-16730.016-A; by Chandra X-Ray Observatory (CXO) through grant TM2-23005X; and by the Research Corporation for Science Advancement through a Cottrell Scholar Award. JS was supported by the Israel Science Foundation (grant No. 2584/21). DAA acknowledges support by NSF grants AST-2009687 and AST-2108944, CXO grant TM2-23006X, and Simons Foundation award CCA-1018464. SW was supported by an NSF Astronomy and Astrophysics Postdoctoral Fellowship under award AST2001905. Support for PFH was provided by NSF Research Grants 1911233, 20009234, 2108318, NSF CAREER grant 1455342, NASA grants 80NSSC18K0562, HST-AR-15800. This work was performed in part at Aspen Center for Physics, which is supported by National Science Foundation grant PHY-1607611. FIRE-2 simulations were generated using Stampede and Stampede 2, via the Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment (XSEDE), supported by NSF grant ACI-1548562, including allocations TG-AST140023, TG-AST140064, TG-AST160048; Blue Waters, supported by the NSF; Frontera, supported by the NSF and TACC, including allocations AST21010 and AST20016; Pleiades, via the NASA High-End Computing (HEC) Program through the NASA Advanced Supercomputing (NAS) Division at Ames Research Center, including allocations HEC SMD-16-7592, SMD-16-7561, SMD-17-120; and the Quest computing cluster at Northwestern University and the Wheeler cluster at Caltech. Support for PFH was provided by NSF Research Grants 1911233, 20009234, 2108318, NSF CAREER grant 1455342, NASA grants 80NSSC18K0562, HST-AR-15800. Some of the calculations presented in this work rely on public analysis code developed by Alex Gurvich (2021). Some figures were generated with the help of FIRE studio, an open source Python visualization package (Gurvich 2022). DATA AVAILABILITY. The data supporting the plots within this article are available on reasonable request to the corresponding author. A public version of the GIZMO code is available at http://www.tapir.caltech.edu/∼phopkins/Site/GIZMO.html. Additional data including simulation snapshots, initial conditions, and derived data products are available at http://fire.northwestern.edu/data/.

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August 22, 2023
August 22, 2023