The Role of Black Hole Feedback on Size and Structural Evolution in Massive Galaxies

Ena Choi, Rachel S. Somerville, Jeremiah P. Ostriker, Thorsten Naab, Michaela Hirschmann

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71 Scopus citations


We use cosmological hydrodynamical simulations to investigate the role of feedback from accreting black holes in the evolution of the size, compactness, stellar core density, and specific star formation of massive galaxies with stellar masses of M∗ >1010.9 M. We perform two sets of cosmological zoom-in simulations of 30 halos to z=0: (1) without black holes and active galactic nucleus (AGN) feedback and (2) with AGN feedback arising from winds and X-ray radiation. We find that AGN feedback can alter the stellar density distribution, reduce the core density within the central 1 kpc by 0.3 dex from z=1, and enhance the size growth of massive galaxies. We also find that galaxies simulated with AGN feedback evolve along tracks similar to those characterized by observations of specific star formation rate versus compactness. We confirm that AGN feedback plays an important role in transforming galaxies from blue compact galaxies into red extended galaxies in two ways: (1) it effectively quenches the star formation, transforming blue compact galaxies into compact quiescent galaxies, and (2) it also removes and prevents new accretion of cold gas, shutting down in situ star formation and causing subsequent mergers to be gas-poor or mixed. Gas-poor minor mergers then build up an extended stellar envelope. AGN feedback also puffs up the central region through fast AGN-driven winds as well as the slow expulsion of gas while the black hole is quiescent. Without AGN feedback, large amounts of gas accumulate in the central region, triggering star formation and leading to overly massive blue galaxies with dense stellar cores.

Original languageEnglish
Article number91
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - 20 Oct 2018


  • galaxies: evolution
  • galaxies: formation
  • galaxies: structure
  • methods: numerical
  • quasars: supermassive black holes


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