Leila C. Powell

Paris Diderot University, Lutetia Parisorum, Île-de-France, France

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Publications (10)24.51 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Recent simulation work has successfully captured the formation of the star clusters that have been observed in merging galaxies. These studies, however, tend to focus on studying extreme starbursts, such as the Antennae galaxies. We aim to establish whether there is something special occurring in these extreme systems or whether the mechanism for cluster formation is present in all mergers to a greater or lesser degree. We undertake a general study of merger-induced star formation in a sample of 5 pc resolution adaptive mesh refinement simulations of low redshift equal-mass mergers with randomly-chosen orbital parameters. We find that there is an enhanced mass fraction of very dense gas that appears as the gas density probability density function evolves during the merger. This finding has implications for the interpretation of some observations; a larger mass fraction of dense gas could account for the enhanced HCN/CO ratios seen in ULIRGs and predicts that alpha_CO is lower in mergers, as for a given mass of H_2, CO emission will increase in a denser environment. We also find that as the star formation rate increases, there is a correlated peak in the velocity dispersion of the gas, which we attribute to increasing turbulence driven by the interaction itself. Star formation tends to be clumpy: in some cases there is extended clumpy star formation, but even when star formation is concentrated within the inner kpc (i.e. what may be considered a nuclear starburst) it still often has a clumpy, rather than a smooth, distribution. We find no strong evidence for a clear bimodality in the Kennicutt-Schmidt relation for the average mergers simulated here. Instead, they are typically somewhat offset above the predicted quiescent relation during their starbursts.
    Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 06/2013; 434(2). · 5.52 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The quest for a better understanding of the evolution of massive galaxies can be broadly summarised with 2 questions: how did they build up their large (stellar) masses and what eventually quenched their star formation (SF)? To tackle these questions, we use high-resolution ramses simulations (Teyssier 2002) to study several aspects of the detailed interplay between accretion (mergers and cold flows), SF and feedback in individual galaxies. We examine SF in major mergers; a process crucial to stellar mass assembly. We explore whether the merger-induced, clustered SF is as important a mechanism in average mergers, as it is in extreme systems like the Antennae. We find that interaction-induced turbulence drives up the velocity dispersion, and that there is a correlated rise in SFR in all our simulated mergers as the density pdf evolves to have an excess of very dense gas. Next, we introduce a new study into whether mechanical jet feedback can impact upon the ability of hot gas haloes to provide a supply of fuel for SF during mergers and in their remnants. Finally, we briefly review our recent study, in which we examine the effect of supernova (SN) feedback on galaxies accreting via the previously overlooked cold-mode, by resimulating a stream-fed galaxy at z ~ 9. A far-reaching galactic wind results yet it cannot suppress the cold, filamentary accretion or eject significant mass in order to reduce the SFR, suggesting that SN feedback may not be as effective as is often assumed.
    Proceedings of the International Astronomical Union 08/2012; 8(S295).
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    Leila C. Powell, Adrianne Slyz, Julien Devriendt
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    ABSTRACT: Supernova (SN) driven winds are widely thought to be very influential in the high-redshift Universe, shaping the properties of the circumgalactic medium, enriching the intergalactic medium with metals and driving the evolution of low-mass galaxies. However, it is not yet fully understood how SN-driven winds interact with their surroundings in a cosmological context, nor is it clear whether they are able to significantly impact the evolution of low-mass galaxies from which they originate by altering the amount of the cold material these accrete from the cosmic web. Indeed, due to the strong constraints on resolution imposed by limited computational power, all cosmological hydrodynamic simulations to date resort to implementing more or less physically well motivated and complex subgrid models to trigger galactic winds. To explore this issue, we implement a standard Taylor–Sedov type solution, widely used in the community to depict the combined action of many SN explosions, in a cosmological resimulation of a low-mass galaxy at z≥ 9 from the ‘nut’ suite. However, in contrast with previous work, we achieve a resolution high enough to capture individual SN remnants in the Taylor–Sedov phase, for which the Taylor–Sedov solution actually provides an accurate description of the expansion. We report the development of a high-velocity, far-reaching galactic wind produced by the combined action of SNe in the main galaxy and its satellites, which are located in the same or a neighbouring dark matter halo. Despite this, we find that (i) this wind carries out very little mass (the measured outflow is of the order of a tenth of the inflow/star formation rate); and (ii) the cold gas inflow rate remains essentially unchanged from the run without SN feedback. Moreover, there are epochs during which star formation is enhanced in the feedback run relative to its radiative-cooling-only counterpart. We attribute this ‘positive’ feedback to the metal enrichment that is present only in the former. We conclude that at very high redshift, efficient SN feedback can drive large-scale galactic winds but does not prevent massive cold gas inflow from fuelling galaxies, resulting in long-lived episodes of intense star formation.
    Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 07/2011; 414(4):3671 - 3689. · 5.52 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Disk galaxies at high redshift (z ~ 2) are characterized by high fractions of cold gas, strong turbulence, and giant star-forming clumps. Major mergers of disk galaxies at high redshift should then generally involve such turbulent clumpy disks. Merger simulations, however, model the interstellar medium as a stable, homogeneous, and thermally pressurized medium. We present the first merger simulations with high fractions of cold, turbulent, and clumpy gas. We discuss the major new features of these models compared to models where the gas is artificially stabilized and warmed. Gas turbulence, which is already strong in high-redshift disks, is further enhanced in mergers. Some phases are dispersion dominated, with most of the gas kinetic energy in the form of velocity dispersion and very chaotic velocity fields, unlike merger models using a thermally stabilized gas. These mergers can reach very high star formation rates, and have multi-component gas spectra consistent with SubMillimeter Galaxies. Major mergers with high fractions of cold turbulent gas are also characterized by highly dissipative gas collapse to the center of mass, with the stellar component following in a global contraction. The final galaxies are early type with relatively small radii and high Sersic indices, like high-redshift compact spheroids. The mass fraction in a disk component that survives or re-forms after a merger is severely reduced compared to models with stabilized gas, and the formation of a massive disk component would require significant accretion of external baryons afterwards. Mergers thus appear to destroy extended disks even when the gas fraction is high, and this lends further support to smooth infall as the main formation mechanism for massive disk galaxies.
    The Astrophysical Journal 02/2011; 730(1):4. · 6.73 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Two of the dominant channels for galaxy mass assembly are cold flows (cold gas supplied via the filaments of the cosmic web) and mergers. How these processes combine in a cosmological setting, at both low and high redshift, to produce the whole zoo of galaxies we observe is largely unknown. Indeed there is still much to understand about the detailed physics of each process in isolation. While these formation channels have been studied using hydrodynamical simulations, here we study their impact on gas properties and star formation (SF) with some of the first simulations that capture the multiphase, cloudy nature of the interstellar medium (ISM), by virtue of their high spatial resolution (and corresponding low temperature threshold). In this regime, we examine the competition between cold flows and a supernovae(SNe)-driven outflow in a very high-redshift galaxy (z {\approx} 9) and study the evolution of equal-mass galaxy mergers at low and high redshift, focusing on the induced SF. We find that SNe-driven outflows cannot reduce the cold accretion at z {\approx} 9 and that SF is actually enhanced due to the ensuing metal enrichment. We demonstrate how several recent observational results on galaxy populations (e.g. enhanced HCN/CO ratios in ULIRGs, a separate Kennicutt Schmidt (KS) sequence for starbursts and the population of compact early type galaxies (ETGs) at high redshift) can be explained with mechanisms captured in galaxy merger simulations, provided that the multiphase nature of the ISM is resolved.
    Proceedings of the International Astronomical Union 02/2011; 277.
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    ABSTRACT: Galaxy interactions and mergers play a significant, but still debated and poorly understood role in the star formation history of galaxies. Numerical and theoretical models cannot yet explain the main properties of merger-induced starbursts, including their intensity and their spatial extent. Usually, the mechanism invoked in merger-induced starbursts is a global inflow of gas towards the central kpc, resulting in a nuclear starburst. We show here, using high-resolution AMR simulations and comparing to observations of the gas component in mergers, that the triggering of starbursts also results from increased ISM turbulence and velocity dispersions in interacting systems. This forms cold gas that are denser and more massive than in quiescent disk galaxies. The fraction of dense cold gas largely increases, modifying the global density distribution of these systems, and efficient star formation results. Because the starbursting activity is not just from a global compacting of the gas to higher average surface densities, but also from higher turbulence and fragmentation into massive and dense clouds, merging systems can enter a different regime of star formation compared to quiescent disk galaxies. This is in quantitative agreement with recent observations suggesting that disk galaxies and starbursting systems are not the low-activity end and high-activity end of a single regime, but actually follow different scaling relations for their star formation. Comment: Invited talk at IAU Symposium 271, proceedings (N. Brummell, A. S. Brun, M. S. Miesch, Y. Ponty Eds.)
    Proceedings of the International Astronomical Union 12/2010;
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    ABSTRACT: The interstellar medium (ISM) in galaxies is multiphase and cloudy, with stars forming in the very dense, cold gas found in Giant Molecular Clouds (GMCs). Simulating the evolution of an entire galaxy, however, is a computational problem which covers many orders of magnitude, so many simulations cannot reach densities high enough or temperatures low enough to resolve this multiphase nature. Therefore, the formation of GMCs is not captured and the resulting gas distribution is smooth, contrary to observations. We investigate how star formation (SF) proceeds in simulated galaxies when we obtain parsec-scale resolution and more successfully capture the multiphase ISM. Both major mergers and the accretion of cold gas via filaments are dominant contributors to a galaxy's total stellar budget and we examine SF at high resolution in both of these contexts. Comment: 4 pages, 4 figures. To appear in the proceedings for IAU Symposium 270: Computational Star Formation (eds. Alves, Elmegreen, Girart, Trimble)
    Proceedings of the International Astronomical Union 09/2010;
  • A. Slyz, J. Devriendt, L. Powell
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    ABSTRACT: We present preliminary results from a high resolution resimulation of a galaxy in the first 500 million years of its life. The protogalaxy sits at the intersection of filaments which provide a steady supply of smooth cold gas as well as a pathway for denser substructures falling onto it. Fed in this way, the protogalaxy grows a dense, thin, rapidly spinning disk which undergoes gravitational instability leading to dense gaseous clumps. Star formation in these clumps transforms them into stellar clusters. One of the byproducts of this intense star formation is a far reaching galactic wind, powered not just by the protogalaxy sitting at its epicenter but by the winds produced by the dense, star forming substructures feeding the protogalaxy. Despite the impressive presence of the galactic wind, the cold gas supply is hardly affected.
    09/2010;
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    ABSTRACT: Disk galaxies at high redshift (z~2) are characterized by high fractions of cold gas, strong turbulence, and giant star-forming clumps. Major mergers of disk galaxies at high redshift should then generally involve such turbulent clumpy disks. Merger simulations, however, model the ISM as a stable, homogeneous, and thermally pressurized medium. We present the first merger simulations with high fractions of cold, turbulent, and clumpy gas. We discuss the major new features of these models compared to models where the gas is artificially stabilized and warmed. Gas turbulence, which is already strong in high-redshift disks, is further enhanced in mergers. Some phases are dispersion-dominated, with most of the gas kinetic energy in the form of velocity dispersion and very chaotic velocity fields, unlike merger models using a thermally stabilized gas. These mergers can reach very high star formation rates, and have multi-component gas spectra consistent with SubMillimeter Galaxies. Major mergers with high fractions of cold turbulent gas are also characterized by highly dissipative gas collapse to the center of mass, with the stellar component following in a global contraction. The final galaxies are early-type with relatively small radii and high Sersic indices, like high-redshift compact spheroids. The mass fraction in a disk component that survives or re-forms after a merger is severely reduced compared to models with stabilized gas, and the formation of a massive disk component would require significant accretion of external baryons afterwards. Mergers thus appear to destroy extended disks even when the gas fraction is high, and this lends further support to smooth infall as the main formation mechanism for massive disk galaxies.
    The Astrophysical Journal 06/2010; · 6.73 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We present results from a high resolution cosmological galaxy formation simulation called Mare Nostrum and a ultra-high resimulation of the first 500 million years of a single, Milky Way (MW) sized galaxy. Using the cosmological run, we measure UV luminosity functions and assess their sensitivity to both cosmological parameters and dust extinction. We find remarkably good agreement with the existing data over the redshift range 4 < z < 7 provided we adopt the favoured cosmology (WMAP 5 year parameters) and a self-consistent treatment of the dust. Cranking up the resolution, we then study in detail a z = 9 protogalaxy sitting at the intersection of cold gas filaments. This high-z MW progenitor grows a dense, rapidly spinning, thin disk which undergoes gravitational fragmention. Star formation in the resulting gas clumps rapidly turns them into globular clusters. A far reaching galactic wind develops, co-powered by the protogalaxy and its cohort of smaller companions populating the filaments. Despite such an impressive blow out, the smooth filamentary material is hardly affected at these redshifts.
    Proceedings of the International Astronomical Union 04/2010; 262:248-256.