Gas kinematics, morphology, and angular momentum in the FIRE simulations

El Badry et al., available on arXiv.

Abstract: We study the z=0 gas kinematics, morphology, and angular momentum content of isolated galaxies in a suite of cosmological zoom-in simulations from the FIRE project spanning Mstar=10^(6-11) Msun. Gas becomes increasingly rotationally supported with increasing galaxy mass. In the lowest-mass galaxies (Mstar<10^8 Msun), gas fails to form a morphological disk and is primarily dispersion and pressure supported. At intermediate masses (Mstar=10^(8-10) Msun), galaxies display a wide range of gas kinematics and morphologies, from thin, rotating disks, to irregular spheroids with negligible net rotation. All the high-mass (Mstar=10^(10-11) Msun) galaxies form rotationally supported gas disks. Many of the halos whose galaxies fail to form disks harbor reservoirs of high angular momentum gas in their circumgalactic medium. The ratio of the specific angular momentum of gas in the central galaxy to that of the dark-matter halo increases significantly with galaxy mass, from j_gas/j_DM~0.1 at Mstar=10^(6-7) Msun to j_gas/j_DM~2 at Mstar=10^(10-11) Msun. The reduced rotational support in the lowest-mass galaxies owes to (a) stellar feedback and the UV background suppressing the accretion of high-angular momentum gas at late times, and (b) stellar feedback driving large non-circular gas motions. We broadly reproduce the observed scaling relations between galaxy mass, gas rotation velocity, size, and angular momentum, but may somewhat underpredict the incidence of disky, high-angular momentum galaxies at the lowest masses (Mstar=10^6-2x10^7 Msun). In our simulations, stars are uniformly less rotationally supported than gas. The common assumption that stars follow the same rotation curve as gas thus substantially overestimates galaxies' stellar angular momentum, particularly at low masses.