Preferential Accretion in the Supermassive Black Holes of Milky Way-size Galaxies Due to Direct Feeding by Satellites

N. Nicole Sanchez, Jillian M. Bellovary, Kelly Holley-Bockelmann, Michael Tremmel, Alyson Brooks, Fabio Governato, Tom Quinn, Marta Volonteri, James Wadsley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Using a new, high-resolution cosmological hydrodynamic simulation of a Milky Way-type (MW-type) galaxy, we explore how a merger-rich assembly history affects the mass budget of the central supermassive black hole (SMBH). We examine a MW-mass halo at the present epoch whose evolution is characterized by several major mergers to isolate the importance of merger history on black hole (BH) accretion. This study is an extension of Bellovary et al. (2013), which analyzed the accretion of high mass, high-redshift galaxies and their central BHs, and found that the gas content of the central BH reflects what is accreted by the host galaxy halo. In this study, we find that a merger-rich galaxy will have a central SMBH preferentially fed by gas accreted through mergers. Moreover, we find that the gas composition of the inner ∼10 kpc of the galaxy can account for the increase of merger-accreted gas fueling the SMBH. Through an investigation of the angular momentum of the gas entering the host and its SMBH, we determine that gas accreted through mergers enters the galaxy halo with lower angular momentum compared to smooth accretion, partially accounting for the preferential fueling witnessed in the SMBH. In addition, the presence of mergers, particularly major mergers, also helps funnel low angular momentum gas more readily to the center of the galaxy. Our results imply that galaxy mergers play an important role in feeding the SMBH in MW-type galaxies with merger-rich histories.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 10 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • black hole physics
  • galaxies: kinematics and dynamics
  • galaxies: spiral
  • methods: numerical


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