Hopkins et al., available on arXiv.
Abstract: We study the implementation of mechanical feedback from supernovae (SNe) and stellar mass loss in galaxy simulations, within the Feedback In Realistic Environments (FIRE) project. We present the FIRE-2 algorithm for coupling mechanical feedback, which can be applied to any hydrodynamics method (e.g. fixed-grid, moving-mesh, and mesh-less methods), and black hole as well as stellar feedback. This algorithm ensures manifest conservation of mass, energy, and momentum, and avoids imprinting ‘preferred directions’ on the ejecta. We show that it is critical to incorporate both momentum and thermal energy of mechanical ejecta in a self-consistent manner, accounting for SNe cooling radii when they are not resolved. Using idealized simulations of single SNe explosions, we show that the FIRE-2 algorithm, independent of resolution, reproduces converged solutions in both energy and momentum. In contrast, common ‘fully-thermal’ (energy-dump) or ‘fully-kinetic’ (particle-kicking) schemes in the literature depend strongly on resolution: when applied at mass resolution >~100 Msun, they diverge by orders-of-magnitude from the converged solution. In galaxy-formation simulations, this divergence leads to orders-of-magnitude differences in galaxy properties, unless those models are adjusted in a resolution-dependent way. We show that all models that individually time-resolve SNe converge to the FIRE-2 solution at sufficiently high resolution (<10 Msun). However, in both idealized single-SNe simulations and cosmological galaxy-formation simulations, the FIRE-2 algorithm converges much faster than other sub-grid models without re-tuning parameters.