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Dark matter substructure in numerical simulations: a tale of discreteness noise, runaway instabilities, and artificial disruption
van den Bosch, Frank C.; Ogiya, Go
AA(Department of Astronomy, Yale University, PO Box 208101, New Haven, CT 06520-8101, USA), AB(Laboratoire Lagrange, Observatoire de la Côte d'Azur, CNRS, Blvd de l'Observatoire, CS 34229, F-06304 Nice cedex 4, France 0000-0002-3496-8592)
Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, Volume 475, Issue 3, p.4066-4087 (MNRAS Homepage)
Publication Date:
Astronomy Keywords:
instabilities, methods: numerical, galaxies: haloes, dark matter
Abstract Copyright:
2018 The Author(s) Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Royal Astronomical Society
Bibliographic Code:


To gain understanding of the complicated, non-linear, and numerical processes associated with the tidal evolution of dark matter subhaloes in numerical simulation, we perform a large suite of idealized simulations that follow individual N-body subhaloes in a fixed, analytical host halo potential. By varying both physical and numerical parameters, we investigate under what conditions the subhaloes undergo disruption. We confirm the conclusions from our more analytical assessment in van den Bosch et al. that most disruption is numerical in origin; as long as a subhalo is resolved with sufficient mass and force resolution, a bound remnant survives. This implies that state-of-the-art cosmological simulations still suffer from significant overmerging. We demonstrate that this is mainly due to inadequate force softening, which causes excessive mass loss and artificial tidal disruption. In addition, we show that subhaloes in N-body simulations are susceptible to a runaway instability triggered by the amplification of discreteness noise in the presence of a tidal field. These two processes conspire to put serious limitations on the reliability of dark matter substructure in state-of-the-art cosmological simulations. We present two criteria that can be used to assess whether individual subhaloes in cosmological simulations are reliable or not, and advocate that subhaloes that satisfy either of these two criteria be discarded from further analysis. We discuss the potential implications of this work for several areas in astrophysics.
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