THE FORMATION of A MILKY WAY-SIZED DISK GALAXY. I. A COMPARISON of NUMERICAL METHODS

Qirong Zhu, Yuexing Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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Abstract

The long-standing challenge of creating a Milky Way- (MW-) like disk galaxy from cosmological simulations has motivated significant developments in both numerical methods and physical models. We investigate these two fundamental aspects in a new comparison project using a set of cosmological hydrodynamic simulations of an MW-sized galaxy. In this study, we focus on the comparison of two particle-based hydrodynamics methods: an improved smoothed particle hydrodynamics (SPH) code Gadget, and a Lagrangian Meshless Finite-Mass (MFM) code Gizmo. All the simulations in this paper use the same initial conditions and physical models, which include star formation, "energy-driven" outflows, metal-dependent cooling, stellar evolution, and metal enrichment. We find that both numerical schemes produce a late-type galaxy with extended gaseous and stellar disks. However, notable differences are present in a wide range of galaxy properties and their evolution, including star-formation history, gas content, disk structure, and kinematics. Compared to Gizmo, the Gadget simulation produced a larger fraction of cold, dense gas at high redshift which fuels rapid star formation and results in a higher stellar mass by 20% and a lower gas fraction by 10% at z = 0, and the resulting gas disk is smoother and more coherent in rotation due to damping of turbulent motion by the numerical viscosity in SPH, in contrast to the Gizmo simulation, which shows a more prominent spiral structure. Given its better convergence properties and lower computational cost, we argue that the MFM method is a promising alternative to SPH in cosmological hydrodynamic simulations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number52
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Volume831
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science

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