Warm FIRE: Simulating Galaxy Formation with Resonant Sterile Neutrino Dark Matter

Bozek et al., available on arXiv

Abstract: We study the impact of a warm dark matter (WDM) cosmology on dwarf galaxy formation through a suite of cosmological hydrodynamical zoom-in simulations of Mhalo ~ 10^10 Msun dark matter halos as part of the Feedback in Realistic Environments (FIRE) project. A main focus of this paper is to evaluate the combined effects of dark matter physics and stellar feedback on the well-known small-scale issues found in cold dark matter (CDM) models. We find that the z=0 stellar mass of a galaxy is strongly correlated with the central density of its host dark matter halo at the time of formation, z_f, in both CDM and WDM models. WDM halos follow the same Mstar(z=0)-Vmax(z_f) relation as in CDM, but they form later, are less centrally dense, and therefore contain galaxies that are less massive than their CDM counterparts. As a result, the impact of baryonic effects on the central gravitational potential is typically diminished relative to CDM. However, the combination of delayed formation in WDM and energy input from stellar feedback results in dark matter profiles with lower overall densities. The WDM galaxies studied here have a wider diversity of star formation histories (SFHs) than the same systems simulated in CDM, and the two lowest Mstar WDM galaxies form all of their stars at late times. The discovery of young ultra-faint dwarf galaxies with no ancient star formation — which do not exist in our CDM simulations — would therefore provide evidence in support of WDM.