Resolving the formation of protogalaxies. II. Central gravitational collapse

John H. Wise, Matthew J. Turk, Tom Abel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Numerous cosmological hydrodynamic studies have addressed the formation of galaxies. Here we choose to study the first stages of galaxy formation, including nonequilibrium atomic primordial gas cooling, gravity, and hydrodynamics. Using initial conditions appropriate for the concordance cosmological model of structure formation, we perform two adaptive mesh refinement simulations of ∼108 M galaxies at high redshift. The calculations resolve the Jeans length at all times with more than 16 cells and capture over 14 orders of magnitude in length scales. In both cases, the dense, 105 solar mass, one parsec central regions are found to contract rapidly and have turbulent Mach numbers up to 4. Despite the ever decreasing Jeans length of the isothermal gas, we only find one site of fragmentation during the collapse. However, rotational secular bar instabilities transport angular momentum outward in the central parsec as the gas continues to collapse and lead to multiple nested unstable fragments with decreasing masses down to sub-Jupiter mass scales. Although these numerical experiments neglect star formation and feedback, they clearly highlight the physics of turbulence in gravitationally collapsing gas. The angular momentum segregation seen in our calculations plays an important role in theories that form supermassive black holes from gaseous collapse.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)745-757
Number of pages13
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 1 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Black hole physics
  • Cosmology: theory
  • Galaxies: formation
  • Instabilities

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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