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Baryonic solutions and challenges for cosmological models of dwarf galaxies

Abstract

Galaxies and their dark-matter haloes have posed several challenges to the dark energy plus cold dark matter (ΛCDM) cosmological model. These discrepancies between observations and theory intensify for the lowest-mass (‘dwarf’) galaxies. ΛCDM predictions for the number, spatial distribution and internal structure of low-mass dark-matter haloes have historically been at odds with observed dwarf galaxies, but this is partially expected, because many predictions modelled only the dark-matter component. Any robust ΛCDM prediction must include, hand in hand, a model for galaxy formation to understand how baryonic matter populates and affects dark-matter haloes. In this Review, we consider the most notable challenges to ΛCDM regarding dwarf galaxies, and we discuss how recent cosmological numerical simulations have pinpointed baryonic solutions to these challenges. We identify remaining tensions, including the diversity of the inner dark-matter content, planes of satellites, stellar morphologies and star-formation quenching. Their resolution, or validation as actual problems with ΛCDM, will probably require both refining of galaxy-formation models and improving numerical accuracy in simulations.

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Fig. 1: Historical and current tensions between ΛCDM theory and observations of dwarf galaxies.
Fig. 2: Relation between galaxy stellar mass and dark-matter halo mass.
Fig. 3: The diversity of rotation curves is a persistent challenge to ΛCDM.
Fig. 4: Dwarf galaxies show a wide range of sizes at fixed stellar mass.
Fig. 5: Fraction of satellite dwarf galaxies that are quiescent versus stellar mass in observations and simulations of MW-mass galaxies.

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Acknowledgements

We thank J. Samuel, A. Karunakaran, Y. Revaz, R. Grand and F. Munshi for sharing simulation data. We also thank K. Oman for generating Fig. 3. L.V.S. is grateful for financial support from NASA ATP grant number 80NSSC20K0566, NSF AST grant numbers 1817233 and 2107993 and NSF CAREER grant number 1945310. A.W. received support from: NSF grant numbers CAREER 2045928 and 2107772; NASA ATP grant numbers 80NSSC18K1097 and 80NSSC20K0513; HST grant numbers AR-15057, AR-15809, GO-15902 and GO-16273 from STScI; a Scialog Award from the Heising-Simons Foundation; and a Hellman Fellowship. A.F. is supported by a UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship (grant number MR/T042362/1).

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All the authors in this review have made substantial contribution to the discussion, writing and editing of all sections in the text. L.V.S. is responsible for Fig. 1 and 4, A.W. for Fig. 5 and A.F. for Fig. 2.

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Correspondence to Laura V. Sales.

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Sales, L.V., Wetzel, A. & Fattahi, A. Baryonic solutions and challenges for cosmological models of dwarf galaxies. Nat Astron 6, 897–910 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41550-022-01689-w

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