Stellar feedback-regulated black hole growth: driving factors from nuclear to halo scales

Lindsey Byrne*, Claude André Faucher-Giguère, Jonathan Stern, Daniel Anglés-Alcázar, Sarah Wellons, Alexander B. Gurvich, Philip F. Hopkins

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Several recent simulations of galaxy formation predict two main phases of supermassive black hole (BH) accretion: an early, highly intermittent phase (during which BHs are undermassive relative to local scaling relations), followed by a phase of accelerated growth. We investigate physical factors that drive the transition in BH accretion in cosmological zoom-in simulations from the FIRE project, ranging from dwarf galaxies to galaxies sufficiently massive to host luminous quasars. The simulations model multichannel stellar feedback, but neglect AGN feedback. We show that multiple physical properties, including halo mass, galaxy stellar mass, and depth of the central gravitational potential correlate with accelerated BH fuelling: constant thresholds in these properties are typically crossed within ∼0.1 Hubble time of accelerated BH fuelling. Black hole masses increase sharply when the stellar surface density in the inner 1 kpc crosses a threshold Ʃ1*kpc ≈ 109.5 M kpc−2, a characteristic value above which gravity prevents stellar feedback from ejecting gas, and similar to the value above which galaxies are observed to quench. We further show that accelerated BH growth correlates with the emergence of long-lived thin gas discs, as well as with virialization of the inner circumgalactic medium. The halo mass Mhalo ∼ 1012 M and stellar mass M ∼ 1010.5 M at which BH growth accelerates correspond to ∼L* galaxies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)722-739
Number of pages18
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2023


FundersFunder number
TACCAST20016, AST21010
National Science FoundationAST-1715216, AST-2108230, AST-1652522
National Aeronautics and Space Administration17-ATP17-0067, 21-ATP21-0036
Simons Foundation2108318, HST-AR-15800, AST2001905, PHY-1607611, TG-AST160048, CCA-1018464, TG-AST140023, 1911233, 20009234, 80NSSC18K0562, TG-AST140064, ACI-1548562, 1455342
Research Corporation for Science Advancement
Ames Research CenterHEC SMD-16-7592, SMD-16-7561, SMD-17-120
Northwestern University
Space Telescope Science InstituteTM2-23005X, HST-GO-16730.016-A, HST-AR-16124.001-A
Israel Science FoundationAST-2108944, 2584/21, AST-2009687, TM2-23006X
Department of Computer Science, Saarland UniversityDE-SC0020347


    • galaxies: disc
    • galaxies: evolution
    • galaxies: formation
    • quasars: supermassive black holes


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