The fates of the circumgalactic medium in the FIRE simulations

Zachary Hafen*, Claude André Faucher-Giguère, Anglés-Alcázar Daniel Anglés-Alcázar, Jonathan Stern, Dušan Kereš, Clarke Esmerian, Andrew Wetzel, Kareem El-Badry, T. K. Chan, Murray Norman Murray

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


We analyse the different fates of the circumgalactic medium (CGM) in FIRE-2 cosmological simulations, focusing on the redshifts z = 0.25 and 2 representative of recent surveys. Our analysis includes 21 zoom-in simulations covering the halo mass range Mh(z = 0) ∼ 1010-1012 M⊙. We analyse both where the gas ends up after first leaving the CGM (its 'proximate' fate) and its location at z = 0 (its 'ultimate' fate). Of the CGM at z = 2, about half is found in the ISM or stars of the central galaxy by z = 0 in Mh(z = 2) ∼ 5 × 1011 M⊙ haloes, but most of the CGM in lower mass haloes ends up in the intergalactic medium (IGM). This is so even though most of the CGM in Mh(z = 2) ∼ 5 × 1010 M⊙ haloes first accretes on to the central galaxy before being ejected into the IGM. On the other hand, most of the CGM mass at z = 0.25 remains in the CGM by z = 0 at all halo masses analysed. Of the CGM gas that subsequently accretes on to the central galaxy in the progenitors of Mh(z = 0) ∼ 1012 M⊙ haloes, most of it is cool (T ∼ 104 K) at z = 2 but hot (∼Tvir) at z ∼ 0.25, consistent with the expected transition from cold mode to hot mode accretion. Despite the transition in accretion mode, at both z =0.25 and 2 ≥ 80 per cent of the cool gas inMh ≥ 1011 M⊙ haloes will accrete on to a galaxy. We find that the metallicity of CGM gas is typically a poor predictor of both its proximate and ultimate fates. This is because there is in general little correlation between the origin of CGM gas and its fate owing to substantial mixing while in the CGM.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3581-3595
Number of pages15
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2020


  • Cosmology: theory
  • Galaxies: evolution
  • Galaxies: formation
  • Galaxies: haloes
  • Intergalactic medium

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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