Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Simulating the growth of a disk galaxy and its supermassive black hole in a cosmological context
by Levine, Robyn, Ph.D., University of Colorado at Boulder, 2008, 137; 3315831
Abstract (Summary)

Supermassive black holes (SMBHs) are ubiquitous in the centers of galaxies. Their formation and subsequent evolution is inextricably linked to that of their host galaxies, and the study of galaxy formation is incomplete without the inclusion of SMBHs. The present work seeks to understand the growth and evolution of SMBHs through their interaction with the host galaxy and its environment. In the first part of the thesis (Chap. 2 and 3), we combine a simple semi-analytic model of outflows from active galactic nuclei (AGN) with a simulated dark matter density distribution to study the impact of SMBH feedback on cosmological scales. We find that constraints can be placed on the kinetic efficiency of such feedback using observations of the filling fraction of the Ly-α forest. We also find that AGN feedback is energetic enough to redistribute baryons over cosmological distances, having potentially significant effects on the interpretation of cosmological data which are sensitive to the total matter density distribution (e.g. weak lensing). However, truly assessing the impact of AGN feedback in the universe necessitates large-dynamic range simulations with extensive treatment of baryonic physics to first model the fueling of SMBHs. In the second part of the thesis (Chap. 4-6) we use a hydrodynamic adaptive mesh refinement simulation to follow the growth and evolution of a typical disk galaxy hosting a SMBH, in a cosmological context. The simulation covers a dynamical range of 10 million allowing us to study the transport of matter and angular momentum from super-galactic scales all the way down to the outer edge of the accretion disk around the SMBH. Focusing our attention on the central few hundred parsecs of the galaxy, we find the presence of a cold, self-gravitating, molecular gas disk which is globally unstable. The global instabilities drive super-sonic turbulence, which maintains local stability and allows gas to fuel a SMBH without first fragmenting completely into stars. The fueling appears to be a stochastic process, with no preferred timescale for accretion over the duration of the simulation.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Hamilton, Andrew J. S.
Commitee: Armitage, Phillip J., Begelman, Mitchell C., Bender, Peter L., Gnedin, Nickolay Y.
School: University of Colorado at Boulder
Department: Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences
School Location: United States -- Colorado
Source: DAI-B 69/07, Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Astronomy, Astrophysics
Keywords: Active galactic nuclei, Disk galaxies, Galaxy formation, Supermassive black holes
Publication Number: 3315831
ISBN: 9780549673682
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