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Damped Lyman Alpha Systems in Galaxy Formation Simulations

By Andrew Pontzen, Fabio Governato, Max Pettini, C. M. Booth, Greg Stinson, James Wadsley, Alyson Brooks, Thomas Quinn and Martin Haehnelt


We investigate the population of z = 3 damped Lyman alpha systems (DLAs) in a recent series of high resolution galaxy formation simulations. The simulations are of interest because they form at z = 0 some of the most realistic disk galaxies to date. No free parameters are available in our study: the simulation parameters have been fixed by physical and z = 0 observational constraints, and thus our work provides a genuine consistency test. The precise role of DLAs in galaxy formation remains in debate, but they provide a number of strong constraints on the nature of our simulated bound systems at z = 3 because of their coupled information on neutral H I densities, kinematics, metallicity and estimates of star formation activity. Our results, without any parameter-tuning, closely match the observed incidence rate and column density distributions of DLAs. Our simulations are the first to reproduce the distribution of metallicities (with a median of ZDLA ā‰ƒ ZāŠ™/20) without invoking observationally unsupported mechanisms such as significant dust biasing. This is especially encouraging given that these simulations have previously been shown to have a realistic 0 < z < 2 stella

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