Implications of the large OVI columns around low-redshift $L_\star$ galaxies [GA]

Observations reveal massive amounts of OVI around star-forming $L_*$ galaxies, with covering fractions of near unity extending to the host halo’s virial radius. This OVI absorption is typically kinematically centered upon photoionized gas, with line widths that are suprathermal and kinematically offset from the galaxy. We discuss various scenarios and whether they could result in the observed phenomenology (cooling flows, boundary layers, shocks, virialized gas, photoionized clouds in thermal equilibrium). If predominantly collisionally ionized, as we argue is most probable, the OVI observations require that the circumgalactic medium (CGM) of $L_*$ galaxies holds nearly all the associated baryons within a virial radius ($\sim 10^{11}M_\odot$) and that there is likely a cooling flow of $\approx30[nT/30{\rm~cm^{-3}K}]~M_\odot~$yr$^{-1}$, which must be largely prevented from accreting onto the host galaxy. Cooling and feedback energetics considerations require $10 <\langle nT\rangle<100{\rm~cm^{-3}K}$ for the warm and hot halo gases. We argue that virialized gas, boundary layers, hot winds, and shocks are unlikely to directly account for the bulk of the OVI. Furthermore, we show that there is a robust constraint on the number density of many of the photoionized $\sim10^4$K absorption systems that yields upper bounds in the range $n<(0.1-3)\times10^{-3}(Z/0.3)$cm$^{-3}$, where $Z$ is the metallicity, suggestive that the dominant pressure in some photoionized clouds is nonthermal. This constraint, which requires minimal ionization modeling, is in accord with the low densities inferred from more complex photoionization modeling. The large inferred cooling flow could re-form these clouds in a fraction of the halo dynamical time, as some arguments require, and it requires much of the feedback energy available from supernovae and stellar winds to be dissipated in the CGM.

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M. McQuinn and J. Werk
Mon, 13 Mar 17

Comments: 16 pages, submitted to ApJ