First light and reionisation epoch simulations (FLARES) IX: The physical mechanisms driving compact galaxy formation and evolution

William J. Roper, Christopher C. Lovell, Aswin P. Vijayan, Dimitrios Irodotou, Jussi K. Kuusisto, Jasleen Matharu, Louise T. C. Seeyave, Peter A. Thomas, Stephen M. Wilkins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the FLARES (First Light And Reionisation Epoch Simulations) suite of hydrodynamical simulations, we find the high redshift (z >5) intrinsic size-luminosity relation is, surprisingly, negatively sloped. However, after including the effects of dust attenuation we find a positively sloped UV observed size-luminosity relation in good agreement with other simulated and observational studies. In this work, we extend this analysis to probe the underlying physical mechanisms driving the formation and evolution of the compact galaxies driving the negative size-mass/size-luminosity relation. We find the majority of compact galaxies (R1/2,⋆< 1pkpc), which drive the negative slope of the size-mass relation, have transitioned from extended to compact sizes via efficient centralised cooling, resulting in high specific star formation rates in their cores. These compact stellar systems are enshrouded by non-star forming gas distributions as much as 100× larger than their stellar counterparts. By comparing with galaxies from the EAGLE simulation suite, we find that these extended gas distributions `turn on' and begin to form stars between z = 5 and z = 0 leading to increasing sizes, and thus the evolution of the size-mass relation from a negative to a positive slope. This explicitly demonstrates the process of inside-out galaxy formation in which compact bulges form earlier than the surrounding discs.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6128–6144
Number of pages17
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number4
Early online date18 Sept 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2023


  • astro-ph.GA
  • galaxies: high-redshift
  • galaxies: formation
  • galaxies: evolution
  • galaxies: star formation
  • UKRI
  • STFC
  • ST/K00042X/1
  • ST/P002293/1
  • ST/R002371/1
  • ST/S002502/1
  • ST/R000832/1

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