Feedback from supermassive black holes transforms centrals into passive galaxies by ejecting circumgalactic gas

Benjamin D. Oppenheimer*, Jonathan J. Davies, Robert A. Crain, Nastasha A. Wijers, Joop Schaye, Jessica K. Werk, Joseph N. Burchett, James W. Trayford, Ryan Horton

*Corresponding author for this work

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Davies et al. established that for L galaxies the fraction of baryons in the circumgalactic medium (CGM) is inversely correlated with the mass of their central supermassive black holes (BHs) in the EAGLE hydrodynamic simulation. The interpretation is that, over time, a more massive BH has provided more energy to transport baryons beyond the virial radius, which additionally reduces gas accretion and star formation. We continue this research by focusing on the relationship between the (1) BH masses (MBH), (2) physical and observational properties of the CGM, and (3) galaxy colours for Milky Way-mass systems. The ratio of the cumulative BH feedback energy over the gaseous halo binding energy is a strong predictor of the CGM gas content, with BHs injecting significantly higher than the binding energy resulting in gas-poor haloes. Observable tracers of the CGM, including CIV, OVI, and HI absorption line measurements, are found to be effective tracers of the total z ∼ 0 CGM halo mass. We use high-cadence simulation outputs to demonstrate that BH feedback pushes baryons beyond the virial radius within 100 Myr time-scales, but that CGM metal tracers take longer (0.5-2.5 Gyr) to respond. Secular evolution of galaxies results in blue, star-forming or red, passive populations depending on the cumulative feedback from BHs. The reddest quartile of galaxies with M = 1010.2-10.7M (median u - r = 2.28) has a CGM mass that is 2.5 times lower than the bluest quartile (u - r = 1.59). We propose observing strategies to indirectly ascertain fCGM via metal lines around galaxies with measured MBH. We predict statistically detectable declines in CIV and OVI covering fractions with increasing MBH for central galaxies with M = 1010.2-10.7M.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2939-2952
Number of pages14
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number2
Early online date13 Nov 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2020


  • (galaxies:) quasars: supermassive black holes
  • Cosmology: theory
  • Galaxies: formation
  • Hydrodynamics
  • Methods: numerical
  • Quasars: absorption lines
  • UKRI
  • STFC
  • ST/K00042X/1
  • ST/P002293/1
  • ST/R002371/1
  • ST/S002502/1
  • ST/R000832/1


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