Resolving small-scale cold circumgalactic gas in TNG50
Nelson, Dylan; Sharma, Prateek; Pillepich, Annalisa; Springel, Volker; Pakmor, Rüdiger; Weinberger, Rainer; Vogelsberger, Mark; Marinacci, Federico; Hernquist, Lars
We use the high-resolution TNG50 cosmological magnetohydrodynamical simulation to explore the properties and origin of cold circumgalactic medium (CGM) gas around massive galaxies (M⋆ > 1011 M☉ ) at intermediate redshift ( z∼0.5 ). We discover a significant abundance of small-scale, cold gas structure in the CGM of ‘red and dead’ elliptical systems, as traced by neutral H I and Mg II. Halos can host tens of thousands of discrete absorbing cloudlets, with sizes of order a kpc or smaller. With a Lagrangian tracer analysis, we show that cold clouds form due to strong δρ/ρ¯≫1 gas density perturbations that stimulate thermal instability. These local overdensities trigger rapid cooling from the hot virialized background medium at ∼107 K to radiatively inefficient ∼104 K clouds, which act as cosmologically long-lived, ‘stimulated cooling’ seeds in a regime where the global halo does not satisfy the classic tcool/tff < 10 criterion. Furthermore, these small clouds are dominated by magnetic rather than thermal pressure, with plasma β ≪ 1, suggesting that magnetic fields may play an important role. The number and total mass of cold clouds both increase with resolution, and the mgas ≃ 8 × 104M☉ cell mass of TNG50 enables the ∼ few hundred pc, small-scale CGM structure we observe to form. Finally, we make a preliminary comparison against observations from the COS-LRG, LRG-RDR, COS-Halos, and SDSS LRG surveys. We broadly find that our recent, high-resolution cosmological simulations produce sufficiently high covering fractions of extended, cold gas as observed to surround massive galaxies.
Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, Volume 498, Issue 2, pp.2391-2414, October 2020