Halo expansion in cosmological hydro simulations: Toward a baryonic solution of the cusp/core problem in massive spirals

A. V. MacCiò, G. Stinson, C. B. Brook, J. Wadsley, H. M.P. Couchman, S. Shen, B. K. Gibson, T. Quinn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A clear prediction of the cold dark matter (CDM) model is the existence of cuspy dark matter halo density profiles on all mass scales. This is not in agreement with the observed rotation curves of spiral galaxies, challenging on small scales the otherwise successful CDM paradigm. In this work we employ high-resolution cosmological hydrodynamical simulations to study the effects of dissipative processes on the inner distribution of dark matter in Milky Way like objects (M ≈ 1012 M ). Our simulations include supernova feedback, and the effects of the radiation pressure of massive stars before they explode as supernovae. The increased stellar feedback results in the expansion of the dark matter halo instead of contraction with respect to N-body simulations. Baryons are able to erase the dark matter cuspy distribution, creating a flat, cored, dark matter density profile in the central several kiloparsecs of a massive Milky-Way-like halo. The profile is well fit by a Burkert profile, with fitting parameters consistent with the observations. In addition, we obtain flat rotation curves as well as extended, exponential stellar disk profiles. While the stellar disk we obtain is still partially too thick to resemble the Milky Way thin disk, this pilot study shows that there is enough energy available in the baryonic component to alter the dark matter distribution even in massive disk galaxies, providing a possible solution to the long-standing problem of cusps versus cores.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberL9
JournalAstrophysical Journal Letters
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2012


  • cosmology: theory
  • galaxies: structure
  • hydrodynamics
  • methods: numerical

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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