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The COS-Halos Survey: Physical Conditions and Baryonic Mass in the Low-redshift Circumgalactic Medium

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  • Jessica K. Werk
  • J. Xavier Prochaska
  • Jason Tumlinson
  • Molly S. Peeples
  • Todd M. Tripp
  • Andrew J. Fox
  • Nicolas Lehner
  • Christopher Thom
  • John M. O'Meara
  • Amanda Brady Ford
  • Rongmon Bordoloi
  • Neal Katz
  • Nicolas Tejos
  • Benjamin D. Oppenheimer
  • Romeel Davé
  • David H. Weinberg

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 8 Sep 2014


We analyze the physical conditions of the cool, photoionized (T ~104 K) circumgalactic medium (CGM) using the COS-Halos suite of gas column density measurements for 44 gaseous halos within 160 kpc of L ~ L* galaxies at z ~ 0.2. These data are well described by simple photoionization models, with the gas highly ionized (n H II /n H >~ 99%) by the extragalactic ultraviolet background. Scaling by estimates for the virial radius, R vir, we show that the ionization state (tracked by the dimensionless ionization parameter, U) increases with distance from the host galaxy. The ionization parameters imply a decreasing volume density profile n H = (10-4.2 ± 0.25)(R/R vir)-0.8 ± 0.3. Our derived gas volume densities are several orders of magnitude lower than predictions from standard two-phase models with a cool medium in pressure equilibrium with a hot, coronal medium expected in virialized halos at this mass scale. Applying the ionization corrections to the H I column densities, we estimate a lower limit to the cool gas mass M_CGM^cool \gt 6.5 × 1010 M ⊙ for the volume within R <R vir. Allowing for an additional warm-hot, O VI-traced phase, the CGM accounts for at least half of the baryons purported to be missing from dark matter halos at the 1012 M ⊙ scale.

    Research areas

  • galaxies: formation, galaxies: halos, intergalactic medium, quasars: absorption lines

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