skip to main content


The NSF Public Access Repository (NSF-PAR) system and access will be unavailable from 11:00 PM ET on Thursday, June 13 until 2:00 AM ET on Friday, June 14 due to maintenance. We apologize for the inconvenience.

Title: Variations in the slope of the resolved star-forming main sequence: a tool for constraining the mass of star-forming regions
ABSTRACT The correlation between galaxies’ integrated stellar masses and star formation rates (the ‘star formation main sequence’, SFMS) is a well-established scaling relation. Recently, surveys have found a relationship between the star formation rate (SFR) and stellar mass surface densities on kpc and sub-kpc scales (the ‘resolved SFMS’, rSFMS). In this work, we demonstrate that the rSFMS emerges naturally in Feedback In Realistic Environments 2 (FIRE-2) zoom-in simulations of Milky Way-mass galaxies. We make SFR and stellar mass maps of the simulated galaxies at a variety of spatial resolutions and star formation averaging time-scales and fit the rSFMS using multiple methods from the literature. While the absolute value of the SFMS slope (αMS) depends on the fitting method, the slope is steeper for longer star formation time-scales and lower spatial resolutions regardless of the fitting method employed. We present a toy model that quantitatively captures the dependence of the simulated galaxies’ αMS on spatial resolution and use it to illustrate how this dependence can be used to constrain the characteristic mass of star-forming clumps.  more » « less
Award ID(s):
1715216 1652522
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ; ; ; ; ;
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society: Letters
Page Range / eLocation ID:
L87 to L91
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. ABSTRACT We compare the star-forming main sequence (SFMS) of galaxies – both integrated and resolved on 1 kpc scales – between the high-resolution TNG50 simulation of IllustrisTNG and observations from the 3D-HST slitless spectroscopic survey at z ∼ 1. Contrasting integrated star formation rates (SFRs), we find that the slope and normalization of the star-forming main sequence in TNG50 are quantitatively consistent with values derived by fitting observations from 3D-HST with the Prospector Bayesian inference framework. The previous offsets of 0.2–1 dex between observed and simulated main-sequence normalizations are resolved when using the updated masses and SFRs from Prospector. The scatter is generically smaller in TNG50 than in 3D-HST for more massive galaxies with M*> 1010 M⊙, by ∼10–40 per cent, after accounting for observational uncertainties. When comparing resolved star formation, we also find good agreement between TNG50 and 3D-HST: average specific star formation rate (sSFR) radial profiles of galaxies at all masses and radii below, on, and above the SFMS are similar in both normalization and shape. Most noteworthy, massive galaxies with M*> 1010.5 M⊙, which have fallen below the SFMS due to ongoing quenching, exhibit a clear central SFR suppression, in both TNG50 and 3D-HST. In contrast, the original Illustris simulation and a variant TNG run without black hole kinetic wind feedback, do not reproduce the central SFR profile suppression seen in data. In TNG, inside-out quenching is due to the supermassive black hole (SMBH) feedback model operating at low accretion rates. 
    more » « less
  2. Abstract We report Hubble Space Telescope Cosmic Origins Spectrograph spectroscopy of 10 quasars with foreground star-forming galaxies at 0.02 < z < 0.14 within impact parameters of ∼1–7 kpc. We detect damped/sub-damped Ly α (DLA/sub-DLA) absorption in 100% of cases where no higher-redshift Lyman-limit systems extinguish the flux at the expected wavelength of Ly α absorption, obtaining the largest targeted sample of DLA/sub-DLAs in low-redshift galaxies. We present absorption measurements of neutral hydrogen and metals. Additionally, we present Green Bank Telescope 21 cm emission measurements for five of the galaxies (including two detections). Combining our sample with the literature, we construct a sample of 117 galaxies associated with DLA/sub-DLAs spanning 0 < z < 4.4, and examine trends between gas and stellar properties, and with redshift. The H i column density is anticorrelated with impact parameter and stellar mass. More massive galaxies appear to have gas-rich regions out to larger distances. The specific star formation rate (sSFR) of absorbing galaxies increases with redshift and decreases with M *, consistent with evolution of the star formation main sequence (SFMS). However, ∼20% of absorbing galaxies lie below the SFMS, indicating that some DLA/sub-DLAs trace galaxies with longer-than-typical gas-depletion timescales. Most DLA/sub-DLA galaxies with 21 cm emission have higher H i masses than typical galaxies with comparable M *. High M HI / M * ratios and high sSFRs in DLA/sub-DLA galaxies with M * < 10 9 M ⊙ suggest these galaxies may be gas-rich because of recent gas accretion rather than inefficient star formation. Our study demonstrates the power of absorption and emission studies of DLA/sub-DLA galaxies for extending galactic evolution studies to previously under-explored regimes of low M * and low SFR. 
    more » « less
  3. Abstract

    We investigate dust attenuation and its dependence on viewing angle for 308 star-forming galaxies at 1.3 ≤z≤ 2.6 from the MOSFIRE Deep Evolution Field survey. We divide galaxies with a detected Hαemission line and coverage of Hβinto eight groups by stellar mass, star formation rate (SFR), and inclination (i.e., axis ratio), and we then stack their spectra. From each stack, we measure the Balmer decrement and gas-phase metallicity, and then we compute the medianAVand UV continuum spectral slope (β). First, we find that none of the dust properties (Balmer decrement,AV, orβ) varies with the axis ratio. Second, both stellar and nebular attenuation increase with increasing galaxy mass, showing little residual dependence on SFR or metallicity. Third, nebular emission is more attenuated than stellar emission, and this difference grows even larger at higher galaxy masses and SFRs. Based on these results, we propose a three-component dust model in which attenuation predominantly occurs in star-forming regions and large, dusty star-forming clumps, with minimal attenuation in the diffuse ISM. In this model, nebular attenuation primarily originates in clumps, while stellar attenuation is dominated by star-forming regions. Clumps become larger and more common with increasing galaxy mass, creating the above mass trends. Finally, we argue that a fixed metal yield naturally leads to mass regulating dust attenuation. Infall of low-metallicity gas increases the SFR and lowers the metallicity, but leaves the dust column density mostly unchanged. We quantify this idea using the Kennicutt–Schmidt and fundamental metallicity relations, showing that galaxy mass is indeed the primary driver of dust attenuation.

    more » « less

    We investigate the conditions that facilitate galactic-scale outflows using a sample of 155 typical star-forming galaxies at z ∼ 2 drawn from the MOSFIRE Deep Evolution Field (MOSDEF) survey. The sample includes deep rest-frame UV spectroscopy from the Keck Low-Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (LRIS), which provides spectral coverage of several low-ionization interstellar (LIS) metal absorption lines and Lyα emission. Outflow velocities are calculated from the centroids of the LIS absorption and/or Lyα emission, as well as the highest velocity component of the outflow from the blue wings of the LIS absorption lines. Outflow velocities are found to be marginally correlated or independent of galaxy properties, such as star-formation rate (SFR) and star-formation rate surface density (ΣSFR). Outflow velocity scales with SFR as a power-law with index 0.24, which suggests that the outflows may be primarily driven by mechanical energy generated by supernovae explosions, as opposed to radiation pressure acting on dusty material. On the other hand, outflow velocity and ΣSFR are not significantly correlated, which may be due to the limited dynamic range of ΣSFR probed by our sample. The relationship between outflow velocity and ΣSFR normalized by stellar mass (ΣsSFR), as a proxy for gravitational potential, suggests that strong outflows (e.g. > 200 km s−1) become common above a threshold of log(ΣsSFR/$\rm {yr}^{-1}\ \rm {kpc}^{-2}$) ∼ −11.3, and that above this threshold, outflow velocity uncouples from ΣsSFR. These results highlight the need for higher resolution spectroscopic data and spatially resolved imaging to test the driving mechanisms of outflows predicted by theory.

    more » « less
  5. ABSTRACT We study the spatially resolved (sub-kpc) gas velocity dispersion (σ)–star formation rate (SFR) relation in the FIRE-2 (Feedback in Realistic Environments) cosmological simulations. We specifically focus on Milky Way-mass disc galaxies at late times (z ≈ 0). In agreement with observations, we find a relatively flat relationship, with σ ≈ 15–30 km s−1 in neutral gas across 3 dex in SFRs. We show that higher dense gas fractions (ratios of dense gas to neutral gas) and SFRs are correlated at constant σ. Similarly, lower gas fractions (ratios of gas to stellar mass) are correlated with higher σ at constant SFR. The limits of the σ–ΣSFR relation correspond to the onset of strong outflows. We see evidence of ‘on-off’ cycles of star formation in the simulations, corresponding to feedback injection time-scales of 10–100 Myr, where SFRs oscillate about equilibrium SFR predictions. Finally, SFRs and velocity dispersions in the simulations agree well with feedback-regulated and marginally stable gas disc (Toomre’s Q = 1) model predictions, and the simulation data effectively rule out models assuming that gas turns into stars at (low) constant efficiency (i.e. 1 per cent per free-fall time). And although the simulation data do not entirely exclude gas accretion/gravitationally powered turbulence as a driver of σ, it appears to be subdominant to stellar feedback in the simulated galaxy discs at z ≈ 0. 
    more » « less