The origin of ultra diffuse galaxies: Stellar feedback and quenching

T. K. Chan*, D. Kereš, A. Wetzel, P. F. Hopkins, C. A. Faucher-Giguère, K. El-Badry, S. Garrison-Kimmel, M. Boylan-Kolchin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

97 Scopus citations


We test if the cosmological zoom-in simulations of isolated galaxies from the FIRE project reproduce the properties of ultra diffuse galaxies (UDGs). We show that outflows that dynamically heat galactic stars, together with a passively aging stellar population after imposed quenching, naturally reproduce the observed population of red UDGs, without the need for high spin haloes, or dynamical influence from their host cluster. We reproduce the range of surface brightness, radius, and absolute magnitude of the observed red UDGs by quenching simulated galaxies at a range of different times. They represent a mostly uniform population of dark matter-dominated dwarf galaxies with M* ~ 108M, low metallicity, and a broad range of ages; the more massive the UDGs, the older they are. The most massive red UDG in our sample (M* ~ 3 × 108 M) requires quenching at z ~ 3 when its halo reachedMh ~ 1011M. Our simulated UDGs form with normal stellar-to-halo ratios and match the central enclosed masses and the velocity dispersions of the observed UDGs. Enclosed masses remain largely fixed across a broad range of quenching times because the central regions of their dark matter haloes complete their growth early. If our simulated dwarfs are not quenched, they evolve into bluer low surface brightness galaxies with M/L similar to observed field dwarfs. While our simulation sample covers a limited range of formation histories and halo masses, we predict that UDG is a common, and perhaps even dominant, galaxy type around M* ~ 108M, both in the field and in clusters.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)906-925
Number of pages20
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 21 2018


  • Dark matter
  • Galaxies: evolution
  • Galaxies: haloes
  • Galaxies: kinematics and dynamics
  • Galaxies: structure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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