Intermittent fragmentation and statistical variations during gas collapse in magnetized atomic cooling haloes

P. Grete, M. A. Latif, D. R.G. Schleicher, W. Schmidt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Observations reveal the presence of supermassive black holes (SMBH) as early as ∼700 million years after the big bang. Their formation path is still subject to current debate. We explore the influence of magnetic fields, which are strongly amplified via the turbulent small-scale dynamo, on the formation of SMBH seeds within the direct collapse scenario. In this study, we perform for the first time cosmological magnetohydrodynamic large eddy simulations that employ a model for unresolved, compressible MHD turbulence. In total we perform 36 simulations for nine haloes each with two different initial magnetic field strengths, and with and without employing the unresolved turbulence model. We make use of the adaptive mesh refinement approach to achieve an effective spatial resolution of less than one proper astronomical unit. We consider a regime where cooling is regulated by atomic hydrogen and the molecular hydrogen gets dissociated by a strong radiation field. Our main finding is that the majority of the gas properties in the haloes at the final output are predominantly determined by the run-away gravitational collapse. Turbulence is supersonic and super-Alfvénic in all cases, and magnetic fields are amplified to an approximately dynamically relevant regime. Finally, fragmentation during the collapse is intermittent and mass accretion rates range from 0.2 to 3 M\odot yr-1. This suggests that the presence of strongly amplified magnetic fields and turbulence provides additional pressure support on small scales and makes the direct collapse a viable scenario for the formation of massive objects under the required ambient conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4525-4535
Number of pages11
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jun 25 2019


  • cosmology: Theory
  • early Universe
  • methods: Numerical
  • MHD
  • quasars: Suerpmassive black holes
  • turbulence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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