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Flickering AGN can explain the strong circumgalactic O VI observed by COS-Halos

Oppenheimer, BD, Segers, M, Schaye, J, Richings, AJ and Crain, RA (2017) Flickering AGN can explain the strong circumgalactic O VI observed by COS-Halos. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 474 (4). pp. 4740-4755. ISSN 1365-2966

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Proximity zone fossils (PZFs) are ionization signatures around recently active galactic nuclei (AGNs) where metal species in the circumgalactic medium remain overionized after the AGNs have shut off due to their long recombination time scales. We explore cosmological zoom hydrodynamic simulations, using the EAGLE (Evolution and Assembly of GaLaxies and their Environments) model paired with a non-equilibrium ionization and cooling module including time-variable AGN radiation to model PZFs around star-forming disc galaxies in the z ∼ 0.2 Universe. Previous simulations typically underestimated the O VI content of galactic haloes, but we show that plausible PZF models increase O VI column densities by 2 − 3 × to achieve the levels observed around COS-Halos star-forming galaxies out to 150 kpc. Models with AGN bolometric luminosities 1043.6erg s−1, duty cycle fractions 10 per cent, and AGN lifetimes 106 yr are the most promising, because their supermassive black holes grow at the cosmologically expected rate and they mostly appear as inactive AGN, consistent with COS-Halos. The central requirement is that the typical star-forming galaxy hosted an active AGN within a time-scale comparable to the recombination time of a high metal ion, which for circumgalactic O VI is ≈107 yr. H I, by contrast, returns to equilibrium much more rapidly due to its low neutral fraction and does not show a significant PZF effect. O VI absorption features originating from PZFs appear narrow, indicating photoionization, and are often well aligned with lower metal ion species. PZFs are highly likely to affect the physical interpretation of circumgalactic high ionization metal lines if, as expected, normal galaxies host flickering AGN.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: This article has been accepted for publication in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society ©: 2017 The Authors Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Royal Astronomical Society. All rights reserved.
Uncontrolled Keywords: 0201 Astronomical And Space Sciences
Subjects: Q Science > QB Astronomy
Q Science > QC Physics
Divisions: Astrophysics Research Institute
Publisher: Oxford University Press (OUP)
Date Deposited: 13 Feb 2018 11:43
Last Modified: 04 Sep 2021 03:14
DOI or ID number: 10.1093/mnras/stx2967
URI: https://researchonline.ljmu.ac.uk/id/eprint/8016
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