TORQUE-limited growth of massive black holes in galaxies across cosmic time

Daniel Anglés-Alcázar, Feryal Özel, Romeel S Dave, Neal Katz, Juna A. Kollmeier, Benjamin D. Oppenheimer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Scopus citations


We combine cosmological hydrodynamic simulations with analytic models to evaluate the role of galaxy-scale gravitational torques on the evolution of massive black holes at the centers of star-forming galaxies. We confirm and extend our earlier results to show that torque-limited growth yields black holes and host galaxies evolving on average along the M BH-M bulge relation from early times down to z = 0 and that convergence onto the scaling relation occurs independent of the initial conditions and with no need for mass averaging through mergers or additional self-regulation processes. Smooth accretion dominates the long-term evolution, with black hole mergers with mass ratios ≳ 1:5 representing typically a small fraction of the total growth. Winds from the accretion disk are required to eject significant mass to suppress black hole growth, but there is no need for coupling this wind to galactic-scale gas to regulate black holes in a nonlinear feedback loop. Torque-limited growth yields a close-to-linear (M⊙BH) ∝star formation rate (SFR) relation for the black hole accretion rate averaged over galaxy evolution timescales. However, the SFR-AGN connection has significant scatter owing to strong variability of black hole accretion at all resolved timescales. Eddington ratios can be described by a broad lognormal distribution with median value evolving roughly as λMS∝(1 + z)1.9, suggesting a main sequence for black hole growth similar to the cosmic evolution of specific SFRs. Our results offer an attractive scenario consistent with available observations in which cosmological gas infall and transport of angular momentum in the galaxy by gravitational instabilities regulate the long-term co-evolution of black holes and star-forming galaxies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number127
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 20 2015


  • black hole physics
  • galaxies: active
  • galaxies: evolution
  • quasars: general

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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