Publication details

A Black Hole Feedback Valve in Massive Galaxies



Year of publication 2020
Type Article in Periodical
Magazine / Source Astrophysical Journal
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Science

Keywords Early-type galaxies; Elliptical galaxies; Giant elliptical galaxies; Quenched galaxies; Red sequence galaxies; X-ray astronomy; Circumgalactic medium
Description Star formation in the universe's most massive galaxies proceeds furiously early in time but then nearly ceases. Plenty of hot gas remains available but does not cool and condense into star-forming clouds. Active galactic nuclei (AGNs) release enough energy to inhibit cooling of the hot gas, but energetic arguments alone do not explain why quenching of star formation is most effective in high-mass galaxies. In fact, optical observations show that quenching is more closely related to a galaxy's central stellar velocity dispersion (sigma(v)) than to any other characteristic. Here we show that high sigma(v) is critical to quenching because a deep central potential well maximizes the efficacy of AGN feedback. In order to remain quenched, a galaxy must continually sweep out the gas ejected from its aging stars. Supernova heating can accomplish this task as long as the AGN sufficiently reduces the gas pressure of the surrounding circumgalactic medium (CGM). We find that CGM pressure acts as the control knob on a valve that regulates AGN feedback and suggest that feedback power self-adjusts so that it suffices to lift the CGM out of the galaxy's potential well. Supernova heating then drives a galactic outflow that remains homogeneous if sigma(v) greater than or similar to 240 km s(-1). The AGN feedback can effectively quench galaxies with a comparable velocity dispersion, but feedback in galaxies with a much lower velocity dispersion tends to result in convective circulation and accumulation of multiphase gas within the galaxy.
Related projects:

You are running an old browser version. We recommend updating your browser to its latest version.

More info