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Connecting cosmological accretion to strong Lyα absorbers.

Theuns, Tom (2021) 'Connecting cosmological accretion to strong Lyα absorbers.', Monthly notices of the Royal Astronomical Society., 500 (2). pp. 2741-2756.


We present an analytical model for the cosmological accretion of gas on to dark matter haloes, based on a similarity solution applicable to spherical systems. Performing simplified radiative transfer, we compute how the accreting gas turns increasingly neutral as it self-shields from the ionizing background, and obtain the column density, NHI⁠, as a function of impact parameter. The resulting column-density distribution function (CDDF) is in excellent agreement with observations. The analytical expression elucidates (1) why haloes over a large range in mass contribute about equally to the CDDF as well as (2) why the CDDF evolves so little with redshift in the range z = 2–5. We show that the model also predicts reasonable damped Lyman-αabsorber(DLA) line widths (v90), bias, and molecular fractions. Integrating over the CDDF yields the mass density in neutral gas, ΩHI⁠, which agrees well with observations. ΩHI(z) is nearly constant even though the accretion rate on to haloes evolves. We show that this occurs because the fraction of time that the inflowing gas is neutral depends on the dynamical time of the halo, which is inversely proportional to the accretion rate. Encapsulating results from cosmological simulations, the simple model shows that most Lyman-limit systems and DLAs are associated with the cosmological accretion of gas on to haloes.

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Publisher statement:This article has been accepted for publication in Monthly notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. ©: 2020 The Author(s). Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Royal Astronomical Society. All rights reserved.
Date accepted:28 October 2020
Date deposited:09 December 2020
Date of first online publication:05 November 2020
Date first made open access:09 December 2020

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