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Journal Articles Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society Year : 2023

Wet Compaction to a Blue Nugget: a Critical Phase in Galaxy Evolution

Sharon Lapiner
  • Function : Author
Avishai Dekel
  • Function : Author
Omri Ginzburg
  • Function : Author
Fangzhou Jiang
  • Function : Author
Michael Kretschmer
  • Function : Author
Sandro Tacchella
  • Function : Author
Daniel Ceverino
  • Function : Author
Joel Primack
  • Function : Author


We utilize high-resolution cosmological simulations to reveal that high-redshift galaxies tend to undergo a robust 'wet compaction' event when near a 'golden' stellar mass of $\sim \!\!10^{10}\, \rm M_\odot$. This is a gaseous shrinkage to a compact star-forming phase, a 'blue nugget' (BN), followed by central quenching of star formation to a compact passive stellar bulge, a 'red nugget' (RN), and a buildup of an extended gaseous disc and ring. Such nuggets are observed at cosmic noon and seed today's early-type galaxies. The compaction is triggered by a drastic loss of angular momentum due to, e.g., wet mergers, counter-rotating cold streams, or violent disc instability. The BN phase marks drastic transitions in the galaxy structural, compositional and kinematic properties. The transitions are from star-forming to quenched inside-out, from diffuse to compact with an extended disc-ring and a stellar envelope, from dark matter to baryon central dominance, from prolate to oblate stellar shape, from pressure to rotation support, from low to high metallicity, and from supernova to AGN feedback. The central black hole growth, first suppressed by supernova feedback when below the golden mass, is boosted by the compaction, and the black hole keeps growing once the halo is massive enough to lock in the supernova ejecta.
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insu-04094003 , version 1 (10-07-2023)



Sharon Lapiner, Avishai Dekel, Jonathan Freundlich, Omri Ginzburg, Fangzhou Jiang, et al.. Wet Compaction to a Blue Nugget: a Critical Phase in Galaxy Evolution. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 2023, ⟨10.1093/mnras/stad1263⟩. ⟨insu-04094003⟩
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