Quenched cold accretion of a large-scale metal-poor filament due to virial shocking in the halo of a massive z=0.7 galaxy

Christopher W. Churchill*, Glenn G. Kacprzak, Charles C. Steidel, Lee R. Spitler, Jon Holtzman, Nikole M. Nielsen, Sebastian Trujillo-Gomez

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)


Using HST/COS/STIS and HIRES/Keck high-resolution spectra, we have studied a remarkable H I absorbing complex at z = 0.672 toward the quasar Q1317+277. The H I absorption has a velocity spread of Δv = 1600kms-1, comprises 21 Voigt profile components, and resides at an impact parameter of D = 58 kpc from a bright, high-mass (log M vir/M ≃ 13.7) elliptical galaxy that is deduced to have a 6Gyr old, solar metallicity stellar population. Ionization models suggest the majority of the structure is cold gas surrounding a shock-heated cloud that is kinematically adjacent to a multi-phase group of clouds with detected C III, C IV, and O VI absorption, suggestive of a conductive interface near the shock. The deduced metallicities are consistent with the moderate in situ enrichment relative to the levels observed in the z 3 Lyα forest. We interpret the H I complex as a metal-poor filamentary structure being shock heated as it accretes into the halo of the galaxy. The data support the scenario of an early formation period (z > 4) in which the galaxy was presumably fed by cold-mode gas accretion that was later quenched via virial shocking by the hot halo such that, by intermediate redshift, the cold filamentary accreting gas is continuing to be disrupted by shock heating. Thus, continued filamentary accretion is being mixed into the hot halo, indicating that the star formation of the galaxy will likely remain quenched. To date, the galaxy and the H I absorption complex provide some of the most compelling observational data supporting the theoretical picture in which accretion is virial shocked in the hot coronal halos of high-mass galaxies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number68
Pages (from-to)1-21
Number of pages21
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 20 Nov 2012
Externally publishedYes


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