We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. By continuing to browse this repository, you give consent for essential cookies to be used. You can read more about our Privacy and Cookie Policy.

Durham Research Online
You are in:

Cold accretion flows and the nature of high column density H I absorption at redshift 3.

van de Voort, F. and Schaye, J. and Altay, G. and Theuns, Tom (2012) 'Cold accretion flows and the nature of high column density H I absorption at redshift 3.', Monthly notices of the Royal Astronomical Society., 421 (4). pp. 2809-2819.


Simulations predict that galaxies grow primarily through the accretion of gas that has not gone through an accretion shock near the virial radius and that this cold gas flows towards the central galaxy along dense filaments and streams. There is, however, little observational evidence for the existence of these cold flows. We use a large, cosmological, hydrodynamical simulation that has been post‐processed with radiative transfer to study the contribution of cold flows to the observed z= 3 column density distribution of neutral hydrogen, which our simulation reproduces. We find that nearly all of the H I absorption arises in gas that has remained colder than 105.5 K, at least while it was extragalactic. In addition, the majority of the H I is falling rapidly towards a nearby galaxy, with non‐negligible contributions from outflowing and static gas. Above a column density of Graphic cm−2, most of the absorbers reside inside haloes, but the interstellar medium only dominates for Graphic cm−2. Haloes with total mass below 1010 M⊙ dominate the absorption for Graphic cm−2, but the average halo mass increases sharply for higher column densities. Although very little of the H I in absorbers with Graphic cm−2 resides inside galaxies, systems with Graphic cm−2 are closely related to star formation: most of their H I either will become part of the interstellar medium before z= 2 or has been ejected from a galaxy at z > 3. Cold accretion flows are critical for the success of our simulation in reproducing the observed rate of incidence of damped Lyman‐α and particularly that of Lyman limit systems. We therefore conclude that cold accretion flows exist and have already been detected in the form of high column density H I absorbers.

Item Type:Article
Keywords:Galaxies: evolution, Galaxies: formation, Galaxies: high‐redshift, Intergalactic medium, Quasars: absorption lines, Cosmology: theory.
Full text:(VoR) Version of Record
Download PDF
Publisher Web site:
Publisher statement:This article has been accepted for publication in Monthly notices of the Royal Astronomical Society © 2012 The Authors Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society © 2012 RAS Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Royal Astronomical Society. All rights reserved.
Date accepted:No date available
Date deposited:22 August 2014
Date of first online publication:April 2012
Date first made open access:No date available

Save or Share this output

Look up in GoogleScholar