The Impact of Enhanced Halo Resolution on the Simulated Circumgalactic Medium

Cameron B. Hummels, Britton D. Smith, Philip F. Hopkins, Brian W. O'Shea, Devin W. Silvia, Jessica K. Werk, Nicolas Lehner, John H. Wise, David C. Collins, Iryna S. Butsky

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Traditional cosmological hydrodynamics simulations fail to spatially resolve the circumgalatic medium (CGM), the reservoir of tenuous gas surrounding a galaxy and extending to its virial radius. We introduce the technique of Enhanced Halo Resolution (EHR), enabling more realistic physical modeling of the simulated CGM by consistently forcing gas refinement to smaller scales throughout the virial halo of a simulated galaxy.
We investigate the effects of EHR in the TEMPEST simulations, a suite of ENZO-based cosmological zoom
simulations following the evolution of an L* galaxy, resolving spatial scales of 500 comoving pc out to 100
comoving kpc in galactocentric radius. Among its many effects, EHR (1) changes the thermal balance of the
CGM, increasing its cool gas content and decreasing its warm/hot gas content; (2) preserves cool gas structures
for longer periods; and (3) enables these cool clouds to exist at progressively smaller size scales. Observationally,
this results in a boost in “low ions” like H I and a drop in “high ions” like O VI throughout the CGM. These
effects of EHR do not converge in the TEMPEST simulations, but extrapolating these trends suggests that the CGM is actually a mist consisting of ubiquitous, small, long-lived, cool clouds suspended in a medium at the
halo virial temperature. We find that EHR produces the above effects by: (1) better sampling the distribution of
CGM phases, enabling runaway cooling in the dense, cool tail of the phase distribution; and (2) preventing cool
gas clouds from artificially mixing with the ambient hot halo and evaporating.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages19
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Publication statusPublished - 13 Sep 2019


  • astro-ph.GA


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