skip to main content

Title: Simulations of the Milky Way’s central molecular zone - II. Star formation
Abstract The Milky Way’s central molecular zone (CMZ) has emerged in recent years as a unique laboratory for the study of star formation. Here we use the simulations presented in Tress et al. 2020 to investigate star formation in the CMZ. These simulations resolve the structure of the interstellar medium at sub-parsec resolution while also including the large-scale flow in which the CMZ is embedded. Our main findings are as follows. (1) While most of the star formation happens in the CMZ ring at R ≳ 100 pc, a significant amount also occurs closer to SgrA* at R ≲ 10 pc. (2) Most of the star formation in the CMZ happens downstream of the apocentres, consistent with the “pearls-on-a-string” scenario, and in contrast to the notion that an absolute evolutionary timeline of star formation is triggered by pericentre passage. (3) Within the timescale of our simulations (∼100 Myr), the depletion time of the CMZ is constant within a factor of ∼2. This suggests that variations in the star formation rate are primarily driven by variations in the mass of the CMZ, caused for example by AGN feedback or externally-induced changes in the bar-driven inflow rate, and not by variations in the depletion time. (4) more » We study the trajectories of newly born stars in our simulations. We find several examples that have age and 3D velocity compatible with those of the Arches and Quintuplet clusters. Our simulations suggest that these prominent clusters originated near the collision sites where the bar-driven inflow accretes onto the CMZ, at symmetrical locations with respect to the Galactic centre, and that they have already decoupled from the gas in which they were born. « less
; ; ; ; ; ; ;
Award ID(s):
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. ABSTRACT We use hydrodynamical simulations to study the Milky Way’s central molecular zone (CMZ). The simulations include a non-equilibrium chemical network, the gas self-gravity, star formation, and supernova feedback. We resolve the structure of the interstellar medium at sub-parsec resolution while also capturing the interaction between the CMZ and the bar-driven large-scale flow out to $R\sim 5\, {\rm kpc}$. Our main findings are as follows: (1) The distinction between inner (R ≲ 120 pc) and outer (120 ≲ R ≲ 450 pc) CMZ that is sometimes proposed in the literature is unnecessary. Instead, the CMZ is best described as single structure, namely a star-forming ring with outer radius R ≃ 200 pc which includes the 1.3° complex and which is directly interacting with the dust lanes that mediate the bar-driven inflow. (2) This accretion can induce a significant tilt of the CMZ out of the plane. A tilted CMZ might provide an alternative explanation to the ∞-shaped structure identified in Herschel data by Molinari et al. (3) The bar in our simulation efficiently drives an inflow from the Galactic disc (R ≃ 3 kpc) down to the CMZ (R ≃ 200 pc) of the order of $1\rm \, M_\odot \, yr^{-1}$, consistent with observational determinations. (4) Supernova feedback canmore »drive an inflow from the CMZ inwards towards the circumnuclear disc of the order of ${\sim}0.03\, \rm M_\odot \, yr^{-1}$. (5) We give a new interpretation for the 3D placement of the 20 and 50 km s−1 clouds, according to which they are close (R ≲ 30 pc) to the Galactic Centre, but are also connected to the larger scale streams at R ≳ 100 pc.« less
  2. Abstract

    Large-scale bars can fuel galaxy centers with molecular gas, often leading to the development of dense ringlike structures where intense star formation occurs, forming a very different environment compared to galactic disks. We pair ∼0.″3 (30 pc) resolution new JWST/MIRI imaging with archival ALMA CO(2–1) mapping of the central ∼5 kpc of the nearby barred spiral galaxy NGC 1365 to investigate the physical mechanisms responsible for this extreme star formation. The molecular gas morphology is resolved into two well-known bright bar lanes that surround a smooth dynamically cold gas disk (Rgal∼ 475 pc) reminiscent of non-star-forming disks in early-type galaxies and likely fed by gas inflow triggered by stellar feedback in the lanes. The lanes host a large number of JWST-identified massive young star clusters. We find some evidence for temporal star formation evolution along the ring. The complex kinematics in the gas lanes reveal strong streaming motions and may be consistent with convergence of gas streamlines expected there. Indeed, the extreme line widths are found to be the result of inter-“cloud” motion between gas peaks;ScousePydecomposition reveals multiple components with line widths of 〈σCO,scouse〉 ≈ 19 km s−1and surface densities ofΣH2,scouse800more »width='0.25em'/>Mpc2, similar to the properties observed throughout the rest of the central molecular gas structure. Tailored hydrodynamical simulations exhibit many of the observed properties and imply that the observed structures are transient and highly time-variable. From our study of NGC 1365, we conclude that it is predominantly the high gas inflow triggered by the bar that is setting the star formation in its CMZ.

    « less
  3. Abstract We report on the internal distribution of star formation efficiency in IRAS 08339+6517 (hereafter IRAS08), using ∼200 pc resolution CO(2 − 1) observations from NOEMA. The molecular gas depletion time changes by 2 orders-of-magnitude from disk-like values in the outer parts to less than 10 8 yr inside the half-light radius. This translates to a star formation efficiency per freefall time that also changes by 2 orders-of-magnitude, reaching 50%–100%, different than local spiral galaxies and the typical assumption of constant, low star formation efficiencies. Our target is a compact, massive disk galaxy that has a star formation rate 10× above the z = 0 main sequence; Toomre Q ≈ 0.5−0.7 and high gas velocity dispersion ( σ mol ≈ 25 km s −1 ). We find that IRAS08 is similar to other rotating, starburst galaxies from the literature in the resolved Σ SFR ∝ Σ mol N relation. By combining resolved literature studies we find that the distance from the main sequence is a strong indicator of the Kennicutt-Schmidt power-law slope, with slopes of N ≈ 1.6 for starbursts from 100 to 10 4 M ⊙ pc −2 . Our target is consistent with a scenario in which violentmore »disk instabilities drive rapid inflows of gas. It has low values of Toomre- Q , and also at all radii, the inflow timescale of the gas is less than the depletion time, which is consistent with the flat metallicity gradients in IRAS08. We consider these results in light of popular star formation theories; in general observations of IRAS08 find the most tension with theories in which star formation efficiency is a constant. Our results argue for the need of high-spatial-resolution CO observations for a larger number of similar targets.« less
  4. Abstract

    Observations indicate that the star formation rate (SFR) of nuclear rings varies considerably with time and is sometimes asymmetric rather than being uniform across a ring. To understand what controls temporal and spatial distributions of ring star formation, we run semiglobal, hydrodynamic simulations of nuclear rings subject to time-varying and/or asymmetric mass inflow rates. These controlled variations in the inflow lead to variations in the star formation, while the ring orbital period (18 Myr) and radius (600 pc) remain approximately constant. We find that both the mass inflow rate and supernova feedback affect the ring SFR. An oscillating inflow rate with period Δτinand amplitude 20 causes large-amplitude (a factor of ≳5), quasi-periodic variations of the SFR when Δτin≳ 50 Myr. We find that the time-varying interstellar medium (ISM) weight and midplane pressure track each other closely, establishing an instantaneous vertical equilibrium. The measured time-varying depletion time is consistent with the prediction from self-regulation theory provided the time delay between star formation and supernova feedback is taken into account. The supernova feedback is responsible only for small-amplitude (a factor of ∼2) fluctuations of the SFR with a timescale ≲40 Myr. Asymmetry in the inflow rate does not necessarily lead tomore »asymmetric star formation in nuclear rings. Only when the inflow rate from one dust lane is suddenly increased by a large factor do the rings undergo a transient period of lopsided star formation.

    « less
  5. Abstract The Galactic bar plays a critical role in the evolution of the Milky Way’s Central Molecular Zone (CMZ), driving gas toward the Galactic Center via gas flows known as dust lanes. To explore the interaction between the CMZ and the dust lanes, we run hydrodynamic simulations in arepo , modeling the potential of the Milky Way’s bar in the absence of gas self-gravity and star formation physics, and we study the flows of mass using Monte Carlo tracer particles. We estimate the efficiency of the inflow via the dust lanes, finding that only about a third (30% ± 12%) of the dust lanes’ mass initially accretes onto the CMZ, while the rest overshoots and accretes later. Given observational estimates of the amount of gas within the Milky Way’s dust lanes, this suggests that the true total inflow rate onto the CMZ is 0.8 ± 0.6 M ⊙ yr −1 . Clouds in this simulated CMZ have sudden peaks in their average density near the apocenter, where they undergo violent collisions with inflowing material. While these clouds tend to counter-rotate due to shear, co-rotating clouds occasionally occur due to the injection of momentum from collisions with inflowing material (∼52% aremore »strongly counter-rotating, and ∼7% are strongly co-rotating of the 44 cloud sample). We investigate the formation and evolution of these clouds, finding that they are fed by many discrete inflow events, providing a consistent source of gas to CMZ clouds even as they collapse and form stars.« less