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A Cold Channel for Black Hole Accretion and Feedback in Cosmological Simulations

Amit Kashi, Kentaro Nagamine, Daniel Proga - University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Accretion onto Super Massive Black Holes (SMBH) in cosmological simulations is commonly done by assuming that the SMBH is accreting at its Bondi rates. However, the Bondi prescription gives an accretion rate about 100-400 times too low to account for the fast grow of SMBHs at high z. We propose a new prescription with a more detailed physics to account for the accretion rate. The main problem is the very simplifying assumptions used to obtain the Bondi accretion: Radial accretion Homogeneous medium (constant T and rho at infinity) Only the BH is the gravitational source The two only forces are gravity and gas pressure Spherical symmetry These assumptions poorly describe accretion onto SMBHs in galaxies. Also in cosmological scales only the hot gas participates in the accretion while in practice accretion of cold gas is the main mode of accretion.

Our suggested model:

Non Radial accretion (rotation adds a non radial component) Inhomogeneous medium Various forces: gravity and gas pressure from anisotropic medium, radial force from the central AGN, centrifugal force from rotation No spherical symmetry is assumed
The Accretion Condition:

Our Simulation Setup:

We use a modified version of the smoothed particle hydrodynamics (SPH) code GADGET-3 (originally described in Springel et al. 2005). Our modified code includes radiative cooling by H, He, and metals (Choi & Nagamine 2009), heating by a uniform UV background (Faucher-Giguere et al. 2009), the Eisenstein & Hu (1999) initial power spectrum, star formation via the Pressure model (Schaye & Dalla Vecchia 2008; Choi & Nagamine 2010), supernova feedback, sub-resolution model of multiphase ISM (Springel & Hernquist 2003), and the Multicomponent Variable Velocity wind model for galactic wind feedback (Choi & Nagamine 2011). The cosmological parameters we use are m=0.26, =0.74, b=0.044, and h=0.72. We use a periodic box size of comoving L=10Mpc/h with N=21443 particles whose initial mass is 4.1106M/h. The star particles mass is set to half of the gas particles mass. The initial conditions are produced using the P-GenIC code with a random gaussian phase and a primordial spectral index of ns=0.96 and a normalization of 8=0.80.

Model Flow Chart

Mass inflow to SMBH if it is gravitationally bound to the SMBH according to Bernoulli condition B(t)<0 : Instead of accreting hot material, cold gas, possibly in blobs is accreted. The gas is accreted onto the SMBH in a certain efficiency (to be further studied in low-resolution simulations, in prep.) and part of its gravitational energy goes to feedback. Our model includes detailed AGN feedback with three ingredients: Mechanical feedback by AGN winds (Based on Choi & Ostriker 2012 and Ostriker et al. 2010). Thermal Feedback in which part of the energy goes to increase the internal energy of the gas particles. X-ray Feedback composed of Compton heating and cooling, photoionization heating, line and recombination continuum cooling. The gas particle also gain momentum from the X-ray radiation.

Accretion according to Bernoulli condition B(t)<0

Preferably cold Gas is accreted

A flow chart describing our model. The main block is the GADGET-3 SPH code which contains three engines (equation solvers) for cosmology, gravity, and hydrodynamics. Four types of particles are in use: gas, stars, BHs and dark matter. The arrows indicate the direction of information flow between the different parts of the models, where red lines (arteries) represent data going out from the main GADGET-3 code into sub-routines, and the blue lines (veins) represent results coming back to the main GADGET-3 code (the black bi-directional error is equivalent to a red and a blue arrow together). Supernova feedback is also present in the code and as indicated when stars satisfy the equations for becoming a SN energy is ejected to the surrounding gas. The main block we model is the AGN accretion and feedback block, which we implement with accretion according to the Bernoulli equation and three types of feedback (thermal, mechanical and x-ray feedback).

Previous models treat the inner accretion flow as if it looks like this:

We treat the accretion flow in its more likely form which can be as complex as this:

Results BH mass as a function of redshift

All SMBHs in simulation box

BH mass growth rate in Eddington units

Two most massive SMBHs

The growth history of SMBH masses as a function of redshift for our model with cold accretion, as well as the thermal, mechanical, and X-ray feedback. Each SMBH is shown by a different line and color. The occasional vertical jumps in the lines indicate the BH merger events.

The mass accretion rate of the two most massive SMBH in our simulation according to the cold accretion model. The mass accretion rate depends on the amount of cold gas available for the SMBH to accrete.

BH mass density

The MBH M* relation

Simulations results by Di Matteo+(2008)

Our model

Theory (Haring & Rix 2004)

Observations (Shankar+2004)

Simulations results by Di Matteo+(2008) Assuming 100Bondi accretion rate

Our model

The colors indicate distance of the gas from the SMBH

The blue solid line shows the BH mass density obtained from our simulation. The red dotted line shows the BH mass density from Di Matteo et al. (2008) for comparison. Green shaded area indicates the domain between the two observational constraints adopted from Shankar et al. (2004).

The blue solid line shows the summed BH mass accretion rate density obtained from our simulation. The red dotted line is from Di Matteo et al. (2008) simulations that assumes the accretion rate is 100 times the Bondi rate.

Blue points and black line: The MBH-M* relation obtained from our simulation at z = 0. The slope and intersection point which we obtain in our simulation are consistent with the results of Haring & Rix (2004).


Using 3D SPH simulations, we develop a sub-grid model of gas accretion onto SMBH that considers the accretion of cold gas. In our simulations, the SMBH accretion rate is not estimated by the Bondi formula as done by older models, but rather based on generalized solution for accretion flows that is suitable for gas accretion in galaxies. We consider non-spherical mass supply from SPH gas particles that satisfy a general Bernoulli condition with gravity components both from the SMBH and gas. Cold gas is preferentially accreted as it has smaller enthalpy and thus it can satisfy the Bernoulli condition more easily. Implementing a selfconsistent SMBH accretion model is a difficult task in cosmological simulations, as the accreted blobs are far from being resolved in such large scales. Therefore, we take an approach which approximates the available cold gas and correct for the lack of resolution. With this method, we manage to obtain a suitable mass accretion rate onto SMBH that is much higher than the Bondi rate where only gas pressure and gravity in spherically symmetric radial flow are assumed. We take into account mechanical feedback in a form of outflowing wind based on the model of Ostriker et al. (2010), but with the material originating from the cold inflow. The accreted part of the inflowing material liberates energy that heats the surrounding gas and together with the mechanical feedback affects the evolution of the host galaxy. The predicted accretion rate is time-variable and is strongly connected to both the feedback processes and the availability of bound cold material. Our model can account for the observed MBH-M* relation, the expected BH mass density, the cosmic star formation rate density, and other cosmological properties.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS We are grateful to Volker Springel for sharing with us the original version of GADGET-3 code. We acknowledge the NSF grant AST-0807491 and OCI0832614. Support for program number HST-AR12143.01-A was provided by NASA through a grant from the Space Telescope Science Institute, which is operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Incorporated, under NASA contract NAS5-26555. This research was supported in part by the National Science Foundation through TeraGrid/XSEDE resources provided by the National Institute for Computational Sciences (NICS,, and the computations were performed on Kraken and Nautilus at NICS, as well as the Linux clusters at UNLV. This work was partly supported by the President's Infrastructure Award from UNLV. KN thanks the hospitality of the Aspen Center for Physics, where part of this work was done. KN is grateful to the hospitality of the Kavli Institute for Physics and Mathematics of the Universe (IPMU), University of Tokyo, where part of this work was done. AK is grateful to the hospitality of the Physics Department at the Technion - Israel Institute of Technology, where part of this work was done.