skip to main content

Title: A model for the formation of stellar associations and clusters from giant molecular clouds
Abstract We present a large suite of MHD simulations of turbulent, star-forming giant molecular clouds (GMCs) with stellar feedback, extending previous work by simulating 10 different random realizations for each point in the parameter space of cloud mass and size. It is found that once the clouds disperse due to stellar feedback, both self-gravitating star clusters and unbound stars generally remain, which arise from the same underlying continuum of substructured stellar density, ie. the hierarchical cluster formation scenario. The fraction of stars that are born within gravitationally-bound star clusters is related to the overall cloud star formation efficiency set by stellar feedback, but has significant scatter due to stochastic variations in the small-scale details of the star-forming gas flow. We use our numerical results to calibrate a model for mapping the bulk properties (mass, size, and metallicity) of self-gravitating GMCs onto the star cluster populations they form, expressed statistically in terms of cloud-level distributions. Synthesizing cluster catalogues from an observed GMC catalogue in M83, we find that this model predicts initial star cluster masses and sizes that are in good agreement with observations, using only standard IMF and stellar evolution models as inputs for feedback. Within our model, the ratio more » of the strength of gravity to stellar feedback is the key parameter setting the masses of star clusters, and of the various feedback channels direct stellar radiation (photon momentum and photoionization) is the most important on GMC scales. « less
Authors:
; ; ; ; ; ;
Award ID(s):
1652522 1910346 1752913
Publication Date:
NSF-PAR ID:
10278870
Journal Name:
Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
ISSN:
0035-8711
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. ABSTRACT Understanding the evolution of self-gravitating, isothermal, magnetized gas is crucial for star formation, as these physical processes have been postulated to set the initial mass function (IMF). We present a suite of isothermal magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) simulations using the gizmo code that follow the formation of individual stars in giant molecular clouds (GMCs), spanning a range of Mach numbers found in observed GMCs ($\mathcal {M} \sim 10\!-\!50$). As in past works, the mean and median stellar masses are sensitive to numerical resolution, because they are sensitive to low-mass stars that contribute a vanishing fraction of the overall stellar mass. The mass-weighted median stellar mass M50 becomes insensitive to resolution once turbulent fragmentation is well resolved. Without imposing Larson-like scaling laws, our simulations find $M_\mathrm{50} \,\, \buildrel\propto \over \sim \,\,M_\mathrm{0} \mathcal {M}^{-3} \alpha _\mathrm{turb}\, \mathrm{SFE}^{1/3}$ for GMC mass M0, sonic Mach number $\mathcal {M}$, virial parameter αturb, and star formation efficiency SFE = M⋆/M0. This fit agrees well with previous IMF results from the ramses, orion2, and sphng codes. Although M50 has no significant dependence on the magnetic field strength at the cloud scale, MHD is necessary to prevent a fragmentation cascade that results in non-convergent stellar masses. For initial conditions andmore »SFE similar to star-forming GMCs in our Galaxy, we predict M50 to be $\gt 20 \, \mathrm{M}_{\odot }$, an order of magnitude larger than observed ($\sim 2 \, \mathrm{M}_\odot$), together with an excess of brown dwarfs. Moreover, M50 is sensitive to initial cloud properties and evolves strongly in time within a given cloud, predicting much larger IMF variations than are observationally allowed. We conclude that physics beyond MHD turbulence and gravity are necessary ingredients for the IMF.« less
  2. ABSTRACT

    The processes of star formation and feedback, regulating the cycle of matter between gas and stars on the scales of giant molecular clouds (GMCs; ∼100 pc), play a major role in governing galaxy evolution. Measuring the time-scales of GMC evolution is important to identify and characterize the specific physical mechanisms that drive this transition. By applying a robust statistical method to high-resolution CO and narrow-band H α imaging from the PHANGS survey, we systematically measure the evolutionary timeline from molecular clouds to exposed young stellar regions on GMC scales, across the discs of an unprecedented sample of 54 star-forming main-sequence galaxies (excluding their unresolved centres). We find that clouds live for about 1−3 GMC turbulence crossing times (5−30 Myr) and are efficiently dispersed by stellar feedback within 1−5 Myr once the star-forming region becomes partially exposed, resulting in integrated star formation efficiencies of 1−8 per cent. These ranges reflect physical galaxy-to-galaxy variation. In order to evaluate whether galactic environment influences GMC evolution, we correlate our measurements with average properties of the GMCs and their local galactic environment. We find several strong correlations that can be physically understood, revealing a quantitative link between galactic-scale environmental properties and the small-scale GMC evolution. Notably, the measured CO-visible cloudmore »lifetimes become shorter with decreasing galaxy mass, mostly due to the increasing presence of CO-dark molecular gas in such environment. Our results represent a first step towards a comprehensive picture of cloud assembly and dispersal, which requires further extension and refinement with tracers of the atomic gas, dust, and deeply embedded stars.

    « less
  3. Abstract Molecular clouds are supported by turbulence and magnetic fields, but quantifying their influence on cloud life cycle and star formation efficiency (SFE) remains an open question. We perform radiation magnetohydrodynamic simulations of star-forming giant molecular clouds (GMCs) with UV radiation feedback, in which the propagation of UV radiation via ray tracing is coupled to hydrogen photochemistry. We consider 10 GMC models that vary in either initial virial parameter (1 ≤ α vir,0 ≤ 5) or dimensionless mass-to-magnetic flux ratio (0.5 ≤ μ Φ,0 ≤ 8 and ∞ ); the initial mass 10 5 M ⊙ and radius 20 pc are fixed. Each model is run with five different initial turbulence realizations. In most models, the duration of star formation and the timescale for molecular gas removal (primarily by photoevaporation) are 4–8 Myr. Both the final SFE ( ε * ) and time-averaged SFE per freefall time ( ε ff ) are reduced by strong turbulence and magnetic fields. The median ε * ranges between 2.1% and 9.5%. The median ε ff ranges between 1.0% and 8.0%, and anticorrelates with α vir,0 , in qualitative agreement with previous analytic theory and simulations. However, the time-dependent α vir ( t )more »and ε ff,obs ( t ) based on instantaneous gas properties and cluster luminosity are positively correlated due to rapid evolution, making observational validation of star formation theory difficult. Our median ε ff,obs ( t ) ≈ 2% is similar to observed values. We show that the traditional virial parameter estimates the true gravitational boundedness within a factor of 2 on average, but neglect of magnetic support and velocity anisotropy can sometimes produce large departures from traditional virial parameter estimates. Magnetically subcritical GMCs are unlikely to represent sites of massive star formation given their unrealistic columnar outflows, prolonged lifetime, and low escape fraction of radiation.« less
  4. ABSTRACT Giant molecular clouds (GMCs) are well studied in the local Universe, however, exactly how their properties vary during galaxy evolution is poorly understood due to challenging resolution requirements, both observational and computational. We present the first time-dependent analysis of GMCs in a Milky Way-like galaxy and an Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC)-like dwarf galaxy of the FIRE-2 (Feedback In Realistic Environments) simulation suite, which have sufficient resolution to predict the bulk properties of GMCs in cosmological galaxy formation self-consistently. We show explicitly that the majority of star formation outside the galactic centre occurs within self-gravitating gas structures that have properties consistent with observed bound GMCs. We find that the typical cloud bulk properties such as mass and surface density do not vary more than a factor of 2 in any systematic way after the first Gyr of cosmic evolution within a given galaxy from its progenitor. While the median properties are constant, the tails of the distributions can briefly undergo drastic changes, which can produce very massive and dense self-gravitating gas clouds. Once the galaxy forms, we identify only two systematic trends in bulk properties over cosmic time: a steady increase in metallicity produced by previous stellar populations and amore »weak decrease in bulk cloud temperatures. With the exception of metallicity, we find no significant differences in cloud properties between the Milky Way-like and dwarf galaxies. These results have important implications for cosmological star and star cluster formation and put especially strong constraints on theories relating the stellar initial mass function to cloud properties.« less
  5. Abstract Most simulations of galaxies and massive giant molecular clouds (GMCs) cannot explicitly resolve the formation (or predict the main-sequence masses) of individual stars. So they must use some prescription for the amount of feedback from an assumed population of massive stars (e.g. sampling the initial mass function, IMF). We perform a methods study of simulations of a star-forming GMC with stellar feedback from UV radiation, varying only the prescription for determining the luminosity of each stellar mass element formed (according to different IMF sampling schemes). We show that different prescriptions can lead to widely varying (factor of ∼3) star formation efficiencies (on GMC scales) even though the average mass-to-light ratios agree. Discreteness of sources is important: radiative feedback from fewer, more-luminous sources has a greater effect for a given total luminosity. These differences can dominate over other, more widely recognized differences between similar literature GMC-scale studies (e.g. numerical methods, cloud initial conditions, presence of magnetic fields). Moreover the differences in these methods are not purely numerical: some make different implicit assumptions about the nature of massive star formation, and this remains deeply uncertain in star formation theory.