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ALMACAL X: Constraints on molecular gas in the low-redshift circumgalactic medium

Klitsch, Anne, Davis, Timothy A. ORCID:, Hamanowicz, Aleksandra, van de Voort, Freeke ORCID:, Péroux, Céline and Zwaan, Martin A. 2023. ALMACAL X: Constraints on molecular gas in the low-redshift circumgalactic medium. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society: Letters , slad053. 10.1093/mnrasl/slad053

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Despite its crucial role in galaxy evolution, the complex circumgalactic medium (CGM) remains underexplored. Although it is known to be multi-phase, the importance of the molecular gas phase to the total CGM mass budget is, to date, unconstrained. We present the first constraints on the molecular gas covering fraction in the CGM of low-redshift galaxies, using measurements of CO column densities along sightlines towards mm-bright background quasars with intervening galaxies. We do not detect molecular absorption against the background quasars. For the individual, low-redshift, ‘normal’ galaxy haloes probed here, we can therefore rule out the presence of an extremely molecular gas-rich CGM, as recently reported in high-redshift protoclusters and around luminous active galactic nuclei. We also set statistical limits on the volume filling factor of molecular material in the CGM as a whole, and as a function of radius. ISM-like molecular clouds of ∼30 pc in radius with column densities of N(CO) ≳ 1016 cm−2 have volume filling factors of less than 0.2 per cent. Large-scale smooth gas reservoirs are ruled out much more stringently. The development of this technique in the future will allow deeper constraining limits to be set on the importance (or unimportance) of molecular gas in the CGM.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Published Online
Status: Published
Schools: Physics and Astronomy
Publisher: Oxford University Press
ISSN: 1745-3933
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 27 April 2023
Date of Acceptance: 24 April 2023
Last Modified: 11 Nov 2023 10:30

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