Relationship between the Metallicity of the Circumgalactic Medium and Galaxy Orientation

Stephanie K. Pointon, Glenn G. Kacprzak, Nikole M. Nielsen, Sowgat Muzahid, Michael T. Murphy, Christopher W. Churchill, Jane C. Charlton

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41 Scopus citations


We investigate the geometric distribution of gas metallicities in the circumgalactic medium (CGM) around 47, z < 0.7 galaxies from the "Multiphase Galaxy Halos" Survey. Using a combination of quasar spectra from Hubble Space Telescope (HST)/COS and from Keck/HIRES or Very Large Telescope/UVES, we measure column densities of, or determine limits on, CGM absorption lines. We then use a Markov Chain Monte Carlo approach with Cloudy to estimate the metallicity of cool (T ∼ 104 K) CGM gas. We also use HST images to determine host-galaxy inclination and quasar-galaxy azimuthal angles. Our sample spans a H i column density range of 13.8 cm-2 < < 19.9 cm-2. We find (1) while the metallicity distribution appears bimodal, a Hartigan dip test cannot rule out a unimodal distribution (0.4σ). (2) CGM metallicities are independent of halo mass, spanning three orders of magnitude at a fixed halo mass. (3) The CGM metallicity does not depend on the galaxy azimuthal and inclination angles regardless of H i column density, impact parameter, and galaxy color. (4) The ionization parameter does not depend on azimuthal angle. We suggest that the partial Lyman limit metallicity bimodality is not driven by a spatial azimuthal bimodality. Our results are consistent with simulations where the CGM is complex and outflowing, accreting, and recycled gas are well-homogenized at z < 0.7. The presence of low-metallicity gas at all orientations suggests that cold streams of accreting filaments are not necessarily aligned with the galaxy plane at low redshifts or intergalactic transfer may dominate. Finally, our results support simulations showing that strong metal absorption can mask the presence of low-metallicity gas in integrated line-of-sight CGM metallicities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number78
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 20 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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