Bursting and quenching in massive galaxies without major mergers or AGNs

Yuval Birnboim*, Avishai Dekel, Eyal Neistein

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

166 Scopus citations


We simulate the build-up of galaxies by spherical gas accretion through dark matter haloes, subject to the development of virial shocks. We find that a uniform cosmological accretion rate turns into a rapidly varying disc build-up rate. The generic sequence of events (Shocked-Accretion Massive Burst and Shutdown, SAMBA) consists of four distinct phases: (i) continuous cold accretion while the halo is below a threshold mass Msh ∼ 1012 M, (ii) tentative quenching of gas supply for ∼2 Gyr, starting abruptly once the halo is ∼Msh and growing a rapidly expanding shock, (iii) a massive burst due to the collapse of ∼10 11 M gas in ∼0.5 Gyr, when the accumulated heated gas cools and joins new infalling gas and (iv) a long-term shutdown, enhanced by a temporary shock instability in late SAMBAs, those that quench at z ∼ 2, burst at z ∼ 1 and end up quenched in 1012-13 M haloes today. The quenching and bursting occur at all redshifts in galaxies of baryonic mass ∼1011 M and involve a substantial fraction of this mass. They arise from rather smooth accretion, or minor mergers, which, unlike major mergers, may leave the disc intact while being built in a rapid pace. The early bursts match observed maximum starbursting discs at z ≳ 2, predicted to reside in ≲10 13 M haloes. The late bursts resemble discy luminous infrared galaxies (LIRGs) at z ≲ 1. On the other hand, the tentative quenching gives rise to a substantial population of ∼1011 M galaxies with a strongly suppressed star formation rate at z ∼ 1-3. The predicted long-term shutdown leads to red and dead galaxies in groups. A complete shutdown in more massive clusters requires an additional quenching mechanism, as may be provided by clumpy accretion. Alternatively, the SAMBA bursts may trigger the active galactic nucleus (AGN) activity that couples to the hot gas above Msh and helps the required quenching. The SAMBA phenomenon is predicted based on a spherical model that does not simulate star formation and feedback - it is yet to be investigated using detailed cosmological simulations.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)339-352
Number of pages14
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 2007


  • Accretion, accretion discs
  • Dark matter
  • Galaxies: evolution
  • Galaxies: formation
  • Galaxies: haloes
  • Shock waves


Dive into the research topics of 'Bursting and quenching in massive galaxies without major mergers or AGNs'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this