The formation of the first quasars: the black hole seeds, accretion, and feedback models

Qirong Zhu, Yuexing Li, Yiting Li, Moupiya Maji, Hidenobu Yajima, Raffaella Schneider, Lars Hernquist

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14 Scopus citations


Supermassive black holes (SMBHs) of ~109 M⊙are generally believed to be the central engines of the luminous quasars observed at z ≥ 6, but their astrophysical origin remains elusive. To investigate the formation of these distant quasars, we perform a suite of zoom-in simulations on a fa v ourable halo, with a mass of ~1013 M⊙at z = 6 and a history of multiple major mergers, ideal for BH growth. We test BH seeds of 10 -106 M⊙, and various accretion and feedback models, including thin-disc and slim-disc accretion. We find that abundant gas supply and efficient angular momentum transport by gravitational torques are critical to BH accretion, and that the final BH mass depends strongly on the seed mass and radiative efficiency which in turn depends on feedback model. In our simulations, heavy seeds of ≥ 104 M⊙ can grow rapidly to SMBHs of 10 8 -109 M⊙ by z ~6 in both thin and slim disc accretion models, provided that the duty cycle of near-Eddington accretion with an Eddington ratio λEdd ≥ 0.6 is maintained at ≥ 40 per cent . In particular, for a 10 5 M⊙ seed, both our fiducial model and the supercritical accretion model with no spin produce bright quasars with SMBHs of ~109 M ⊙at z ~7.5. On the other hand, the light seeds of ≤ 103 M⊙ failed to grow to 108 M⊙ by z ~6 in our simulations. We caution that the results are inconclusive due to limitations of our numerical methods and physical models, and we stress the need for further investigations on the growth of BH seeds with more advanced methods.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5583-5606
Number of pages24
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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