71 research outputs found

    Iron and silicate dust growth in the Galactic interstellar medium: clues from element depletions

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    The interstellar abundances of refractory elements indicate a substantial depletion from the gas phase, that increases with gas density. Our recent model of dust evolution, based on hydrodynamic simulations of the lifecycle of giant molecular clouds (GMCs) proves that the observed trend for [Sigas_{gas}/H] is driven by a combination of dust growth by accretion in the cold diffuse interstellar medium (ISM) and efficient destruction by supernova (SN) shocks (Zhukovska et al. 2016). With an analytic model of dust evolution, we demonstrate that even with optimistic assumptions for the dust input from stars and without destruction of grains by SNe it is impossible to match the observed [Sigas_{gas}/H]nH-n_H relation without growth in the ISM. We extend the framework developed in our previous work for silicates to include the evolution of iron grains and address a long-standing conundrum: ``Where is the interstellar iron?'. Much higher depletion of Fe in the warm neutral medium compared to Si is reproduced by the models, in which a large fraction of interstellar iron (70%) is locked as inclusions in silicate grains, where it is protected from sputtering by SN shocks. The slope of the observed [Fegas_{gas}/H]nH-n_H relation is reproduced if the remaining depleted iron resides in a population of metallic iron nanoparticles with sizes in the range of 1-10nm. Enhanced collision rates due to the Coulomb focusing are important for both silicate and iron dust models to match the observed slopes of the relations between depletion and density and the magnitudes of depletion at high density.Comment: Accepted for publication in the ApJ, 15 pages, 9 figure

    Spiral arm triggering of star formation

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    We present numerical simulations of the passage of clumpy gas through a galactic spiral shock, the subsequent formation of giant molecular clouds (GMCs) and the triggering of star formation. The spiral shock forms dense clouds while dissipating kinetic energy, producing regions that are locally gravitationally bound and collapse to form stars. In addition to triggering the star formation process, the clumpy gas passing through the shock naturally generates the observed velocity dispersion size relation of molecular clouds. In this scenario, the internal motions of GMCs need not be turbulent in nature. The coupling of the clouds' internal kinematics to their externally triggered formation removes the need for the clouds to be self-gravitating. Globally unbound molecular clouds provides a simple explanation of the low efficiency of star formation. While dense regions in the shock become bound and collapse to form stars, the majority of the gas disperses as it leaves the spiral arm.Comment: 6 pages, 4 figures: IAU 237, Triggering of star formation in turbulent molecular clouds, eds B. Elmegreen and J. Palou

    Modelling Dust Evolution in Galaxies with a Multiphase, Inhomogeneous ISM

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    We develop a model of dust evolution in a multiphase, inhomogeneous ISM including dust growth and destruction processes. The physical conditions for grain evolution are taken from hydrodynamical simulations of giant molecular clouds in a Milky Way-like spiral galaxy. We improve the treatment of dust growth by accretion in the ISM to investigate the role of the temperature-dependent sticking coefficient and ion-grain interactions. From detailed observational data on the gas-phase Si abundances [Si/H]_{gas} measured in the local Galaxy, we derive a relation between the average [Si/H]_{gas} and the local gas density n(H) which we use as a critical constraint for the models. This relation requires a sticking coefficient that decreases with the gas temperature. The synthetic relation constructed from the spatial dust distribution reproduces the slope of -0.5 of the observed relation in cold clouds. This slope is steeper than that for the warm medium and is explained by the dust growth. We find that it occurs for all adopted values of the minimum grain size a_{min} from 1 to 5nm. For the classical cut-off of a_{min}=5 nm, the ion-grain interactions result in longer growth timescales and higher [Si/H]_{gas} than the observed values. For a_{min} below 3 nm, the ion-grain interactions enhance the growth rates, steepen the slope of [Si/H]_{gas}-n(H) relation and provide a better match to observations. The rates of dust re-formation in the ISM by far exceed the rates of dust production by stellar sources as expected from simple evolution models. After the cycle of matter in and out of dust reaches a steady state, the dust growth balances the destruction operating on similar timescales of 350 Myr.Comment: 17 pages, 11 figures, accepted to Ap

    Shocks, cooling and the origin of star formation rates in spiral galaxies

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    Understanding star formation is problematic as it originates in the large scale dynamics of a galaxy but occurs on the small scale of an individual star forming event. This paper presents the first numerical simulations to resolve the star formation process on sub-parsec scales, whilst also following the dynamics of the interstellar medium (ISM) on galactic scales. In these models, the warm low density ISM gas flows into the spiral arms where orbit crowding produces the shock formation of dense clouds, held together temporarily by their external pressure. Cooling allows the gas to be compressed to sufficiently high densities that local regions collapse under their own gravity and form stars. The star formation rates follow a Schmidt-Kennicutt \Sigma_{SFR} ~ \Sigma_{gas}^{1.4} type relation with the local surface density of gas while following a linear relation with the cold and dense gas. Cooling is the primary driver of star formation and the star formation rates as it determines the amount of cold gas available for gravitational collapse. The star formation rates found in the simulations are offset to higher values relative to the extragalactic values, implying a constant reduction, such as from feedback or magnetic fields, is likely to be required. Intriguingly, it appears that a spiral or other convergent shock and the accompanying thermal instability can explain how star formation is triggered, generate the physical conditions of molecular clouds and explain why star formation rates are tightly correlated to the gas properties of galaxies.Comment: 13 pages, 12 figures. MNRAS in pres

    The morphology of the Milky Way - II. Reconstructing CO maps from disc galaxies with live stellar distributions

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    The arm structure of the Milky Way remains somewhat of an unknown, with observational studies hindered by our location within the Galactic disc. In the work presented here we use smoothed particle hydrodynamics (SPH) and radiative transfer to create synthetic longitude-velocity observations. Our aim is to reverse-engineer a top down map of the Galaxy by comparing synthetic longitude-velocity maps to those observed. We set up a system of N-body particles to represent the disc and bulge, allowing for dynamic creation of spiral features. Interstellar gas, and the molecular content, is evolved alongside the stellar system. A 3D-radiative transfer code is then used to compare the models to observational data. The resulting models display arm features that are a good reproduction of many of the observed emission structures of the Milky Way. These arms however are dynamic and transient, allowing for a wide range of morphologies not possible with standard density wave theory. The best fitting models are a much better match than previous work using fixed potentials. They favour a 4-armed model with a pitch angle of approximately 20 degrees, though with a pattern speed that decreases with increasing Galactic radius. Inner bars are lacking however, which appear required to fully reproduce the central molecular zone.Comment: 16 pages, 15 figures, accepted by MNRA

    The dependence of stellar age distributions on giant molecular cloud environment

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    Copyright © 2013 The Authors Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Royal Astronomical SocietyIn this Letter, we analyse the distributions of stellar ages in giant molecular clouds (GMCs) in spiral arms, interarm spurs and at large galactic radii, where the spiral arms are relatively weak. We use the results of numerical simulations of galaxies, which follow the evolution of GMCs and include star particles where star formation events occur. We find that GMCs in spiral arms tend to have predominantly young (<10 Myr) stars. By contrast, clouds which are the remainders of spiral arm giant molecular asssociations that have been sheared into interarm GMCs contain fewer young (<10 Myr) stars and more ∼20 Myr stars. We also show that clouds which form in the absence of spiral arms, due to local gravitational and thermal instabilities, contain preferentially young stars. We propose that the age distributions of stars in GMCs will be a useful diagnostic to test different cloud evolution scenarios, the origin of spiral arms and the success of numerical models of galactic star formation. We discuss the implications of our results in the context of Galactic and extragalactic molecular clouds.Canada Research Chairs ProgramNatural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC)Canada Foundation for InnovationNova Scotia Research and Innovation TrustSaint Mary's University, Halifax, CanadaMonash UniversityScience & Technology Facilities Council (STFC