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  1. Abstract

    We report JWST NIRCam observations of G0.253+0.016, the molecular cloud in the Central Molecular Zone known as “The Brick,” with the F182M, F187N, F212N, F410M, F405N, and F466N filters. We catalog 56,146 stars detected in all six filters using thecrowdsourcepackage. Stars within and behind The Brick exhibit prodigious absorption in the F466N filter that is produced by a combination of CO ice and gas. In support of this conclusion, and as a general resource, we present models of CO gas and ice and CO2ice in the F466N, F470N, and F410M filters. Both CO gas and ice contribute to the observed stellar colors. We show, however, that CO gas does not absorb the Pfβand Huϵlines in F466N, but that these lines show excess absorption, indicating that CO ice is present and contributes to observed F466N absorption. The most strongly absorbed stars in F466N are extincted by ∼2 mag, corresponding to >80% flux loss. This high observed absorption requires very high column densities of CO, and thus a total CO column that is in tension with standard CO abundance and/or gas-to-dust ratios. This result suggests the CO/H2ratio and dust-to-gas ratio are greater in the Galactic Center than in the Galactic disk. Ice and/or gas absorption is observed even in the cloud outskirts, implying that additional caution is needed when interpreting stellar photometry in filters that overlap with ice bands throughout galactic centers.

     
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  2. Context.Mapping molecular line emission beyond the bright low-JCO transitions is still challenging in extragalactic studies, even with the latest generation of (sub-)millimetre interferometers, such as ALMA and NOEMA.

    Aims.We summarise and test a spectral stacking method that has been used in the literature to recover low-intensity molecular line emission, such as HCN(1−0), HCO+(1−0), and even fainter lines in external galaxies. The goal is to study the capabilities and limitations of the stacking technique when applied to imaged interferometric observations.

    Methods.The core idea of spectral stacking is to align spectra of the low S/N spectral lines to a known velocity field calculated from a higher S/N line expected to share the kinematics of the fainter line (e.g. CO(1−0) or 21 cm emission). Then these aligned spectra can be coherently averaged to produce potentially high S/N spectral stacks. Here we used imaged simulated interferometric and total power observations at different S/N levels, based on real CO observations.

    Results.For the combined interferometric and total power data, we find that the spectral stacking technique is capable of recovering the integrated intensities even at low S/N levels across most of the region where the high S/N prior is detected. However, when stacking interferometer-only data for low S/N emission, the stacks can miss up to 50% of the emission from the fainter line.

    Conclusions.A key result of this analysis is that the spectral stacking method is able to recover the true mean line intensities in low S/N cubes and to accurately measure the statistical significance of the recovered lines. To facilitate the application of this technique we provide a public Python package, called PYSTACKER.

     
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 1, 2024
  3. Carbon monoxide (CO) emission constitutes the most widely used tracer of the bulk molecular gas in the interstellar medium (ISM) in extragalactic studies. The CO-to-H 2 conversion factor, α 12 CO(1−0) , links the observed CO emission to the total molecular gas mass. However, no single prescription perfectly describes the variation of α 12 CO(1−0) across all environments within and across galaxies as a function of metallicity, molecular gas opacity, line excitation, and other factors. Using spectral line observations of CO and its isotopologues mapped across a nearby galaxy, we can constrain the molecular gas conditions and link them to a variation in α 12 CO(1−0) . Here, we present new, wide-field (10 × 10 arcmin 2 ) IRAM 30-m telescope 1 mm and 3 mm line observations of 12 CO, 13 CO, and C 18 O across the nearby, grand-design, spiral galaxy M101. From the CO isotopologue line ratio analysis alone, we find that selective nucleosynthesis and changes in the opacity are the main drivers of the variation in the line emission across the galaxy. In a further analysis step, we estimated α 12 CO(1−0) using different approaches, including (i) via the dust mass surface density derived from far-IR emission as an independent tracer of the total gas surface density and (ii) local thermal equilibrium (LTE) based measurements using the optically thin 13 CO(1–0) intensity. We find an average value of ⟨ α 12 CO(1 − 0) ⟩ = 4.4  ±  0.9  M ⊙  pc −2  (K km s −1 ) −1 across the disk of the galaxy, with a decrease by a factor of 10 toward the 2 kpc central region. In contrast, we find LTE-based α 12 CO(1−0) values are lower by a factor of 2–3 across the disk relative to the dust-based result. Accounting for α 12 CO(1−0) variations, we found significantly reduced molecular gas depletion time by a factor 10 in the galaxy’s center. In conclusion, our result suggests implications for commonly derived scaling relations, such as an underestimation of the slope of the Kennicutt Schmidt law, if α 12 CO(1−0) variations are not accounted for. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available August 1, 2024
  4. ABSTRACT

    The Central Molecular Zone (CMZ; the central ∼500 pc of the Galaxy) is a kinematically unusual environment relative to the Galactic disc, with high-velocity dispersions and a steep size–linewidth relation of the molecular clouds. In addition, the CMZ region has a significantly lower star formation rate (SFR) than expected by its large amount of dense gas. An important factor in explaining the low SFR is the turbulent state of the star-forming gas, which seems to be dominated by rotational modes. However, the turbulence driving mechanism remains unclear. In this work, we investigate how the Galactic gravitational potential affects the turbulence in CMZ clouds. We focus on the CMZ cloud G0.253+0.016 (‘the Brick’), which is very quiescent and unlikely to be kinematically dominated by stellar feedback. We demonstrate that several kinematic properties of the Brick arise naturally in a cloud-scale hydrodynamics simulation, that takes into account the Galactic gravitational potential. These properties include the line-of-sight velocity distribution, the steepened size–linewidth relation, and the predominantly solenoidal nature of the turbulence. Within the simulation, these properties result from the Galactic shear in combination with the cloud’s gravitational collapse. This is a strong indication that the Galactic gravitational potential plays a crucial role in shaping the CMZ gas kinematics, and is a major contributor to suppressing the SFR, by inducing predominantly solenoidal turbulent modes.

     
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  5. ABSTRACT

    Galactic bars can drive cold gas inflows towards the centres of galaxies. The gas transport happens primarily through the so-called bar dust lanes, which connect the galactic disc at kpc scales to the nuclear rings at hundreds of pc scales much like two gigantic galactic rivers. Once in the ring, the gas can fuel star formation activity, galactic outflows, and central supermassive black holes. Measuring the mass inflow rates is therefore important to understanding the mass/energy budget and evolution of galactic nuclei. In this work, we use CO datacubes from the PHANGS-ALMA survey and a simple geometrical method to measure the bar-driven mass inflow rate on to the nuclear ring of the barred galaxy NGC 1097. The method assumes that the gas velocity in the bar lanes is parallel to the lanes in the frame co-rotating with the bar, and allows one to derive the inflow rates from sufficiently sensitive and resolved position–position–velocity diagrams if the bar pattern speed and galaxy orientations are known. We find an inflow rate of $\dot{M}=(3.0 \pm 2.1)\, \rm M_\odot \, yr^{-1}$ averaged over a time span of 40 Myr, which varies by a factor of a few over time-scales of ∼10 Myr. Most of the inflow appears to be consumed by star formation in the ring, which is currently occurring at a star formation rate (SFR) of $\simeq\!1.8\!-\!2 \, \rm M_\odot \, yr^{-1}$, suggesting that the inflow is causally controlling the SFR in the ring as a function of time.

     
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  6. ABSTRACT

    We use new HCN(1–0) data from the ACA Large-sample Mapping Of Nearby galaxies in Dense gas (ALMOND) survey to trace the kpc-scale molecular gas density structure and CO(2–1) data from the Physics at High Angular resolution in Nearby GalaxieS–Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (PHANGS–ALMA) to trace the bulk molecular gas across 25 nearby star-forming galaxies. At 2.1 kpc scale, we measure the density-sensitive HCN/CO line ratio and the star formation rate (SFR)/HCN ratio to trace the star formation efficiency in the denser molecular medium. At 150 pc scale, we measure structural and dynamical properties of the molecular gas via CO(2–1) line emission, which is linked to the lower resolution data using an intensity-weighted averaging method. We find positive correlations (negative) of HCN/CO (SFR/HCN) with the surface density, the velocity dispersion, and the internal turbulent pressure of the molecular gas. These observed correlations agree with expected trends from turbulent models of star formation, which consider a single free-fall time gravitational collapse. Our results show that the kpc-scale HCN/CO line ratio is a powerful tool to trace the 150 pc scale average density distribution of the molecular clouds. Lastly, we find systematic variations of the SFR/HCN ratio with cloud-scale molecular gas properties, which are incompatible with a universal star formation efficiency. Overall, these findings show that mean molecular gas density, molecular cloud properties, and star formation are closely linked in a coherent way, and observations of density-sensitive molecular gas tracers are a useful tool to analyse these variations, linking molecular gas physics to stellar output across galaxy discs.

     
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  7. Abstract

    We use PHANGS–James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) data to identify and classify 1271 compact 21μm sources in four nearby galaxies using MIRI F2100W data. We identify sources using a dendrogram-based algorithm, and we measure the background-subtracted flux densities for JWST bands from 2 to 21μm. Using the spectral energy distribution (SED) in JWST and HST bands plus ALMA and MUSE/VLT observations, we classify the sources by eye. Then we use this classification to define regions in color–color space and so establish a quantitative framework for classifying sources. We identify 1085 sources as belonging to the ISM of the target galaxies with the remainder being dusty stars or background galaxies. These 21μm sources are strongly spatially associated with Hiiregions (>92% of sources), while 74% of the sources are coincident with a stellar association defined in the HST data. Using SED fitting, we find that the stellar masses of the 21μm sources span a range of 102–104Mwith mass-weighted ages down to 2 Myr. There is a tight correlation between attenuation-corrected Hαand 21μm luminosity forLν,F2100W> 1019W Hz−1. Young embedded source candidates selected at 21μm are found below this threshold and haveM< 103M.

     
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  8. Abstract The CO-to-H 2 conversion factor ( α CO ) is critical to studying molecular gas and star formation in galaxies. The value of α CO has been found to vary within and between galaxies, but the specific environmental conditions that cause these variations are not fully understood. Previous observations on ~kiloparsec scales revealed low values of α CO in the centers of some barred spiral galaxies, including NGC 3351. We present new Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array Band 3, 6, and 7 observations of 12 CO, 13 CO, and C 18 O lines on 100 pc scales in the inner ∼2 kpc of NGC 3351. Using multiline radiative transfer modeling and a Bayesian likelihood analysis, we infer the H 2 density, kinetic temperature, CO column density per line width, and CO isotopologue abundances on a pixel-by-pixel basis. Our modeling implies the existence of a dominant gas component with a density of 2–3 × 10 3 cm −3 in the central ∼1 kpc and a high temperature of 30–60 K near the nucleus and near the contact points that connect to the bar-driven inflows. Assuming a CO/H 2 abundance of 3 × 10 −4 , our analysis yields α CO ∼ 0.5–2.0 M ⊙ (K km s −1 pc 2 ) −1 with a decreasing trend with galactocentric radius in the central ∼1 kpc. The inflows show a substantially lower α CO ≲ 0.1 M ⊙ (K km s −1 pc 2 ) −1 , likely due to lower optical depths caused by turbulence or shear in the inflows. Over the whole region, this gives an intensity-weighted α CO of ∼1.5 M ⊙ (K km s −1 pc 2 ) −1 , which is similar to previous dust-modeling-based results at kiloparsec scales. This suggests that low α CO on kiloparsec scales in the centers of some barred galaxies may be due to the contribution of low-optical-depth CO emission in bar-driven inflows. 
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  9. Abstract We compare mid-infrared (mid-IR), extinction-corrected H α , and CO (2–1) emission at 70–160 pc resolution in the first four PHANGS–JWST targets. We report correlation strengths, intensity ratios, and power-law fits relating emission in JWST’s F770W, F1000W, F1130W, and F2100W bands to CO and H α . At these scales, CO and H α each correlate strongly with mid-IR emission, and these correlations are each stronger than the one relating CO to H α emission. This reflects that mid-IR emission simultaneously acts as a dust column density tracer, leading to a good match with the molecular-gas-tracing CO, and as a heating tracer, leading to a good match with the H α . By combining mid-IR, CO, and H α at scales where the overall correlation between cold gas and star formation begins to break down, we are able to separate these two effects. We model the mid-IR above I ν = 0.5 MJy sr −1 at F770W, a cut designed to select regions where the molecular gas dominates the interstellar medium (ISM) mass. This bright emission can be described to first order by a model that combines a CO-tracing component and an H α -tracing component. The best-fitting models imply that ∼50% of the mid-IR flux arises from molecular gas heated by the diffuse interstellar radiation field, with the remaining ∼50% associated with bright, dusty star-forming regions. We discuss differences between the F770W, F1000W, and F1130W bands and the continuum-dominated F2100W band and suggest next steps for using the mid-IR as an ISM tracer. 
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  10. Abstract

    We present maps tracing the fraction of dust in the form of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in IC 5332, NGC 628, NGC 1365, and NGC 7496 from JWST/MIRI observations. We trace the PAH fraction by combining the F770W (7.7μm) and F1130W (11.3μm) filters to track ionized and neutral PAH emission, respectively, and comparing the PAH emission to F2100W, which traces small, hot dust grains. We find the averageRPAH= (F770W + F1130W)/F2100W values of 3.3, 4.7, 5.1, and 3.6 in IC 5332, NGC 628, NGC 1365, and NGC 7496, respectively. We find that Hiiregions traced by MUSE Hαshow a systematically low PAH fraction. The PAH fraction remains relatively constant across other galactic environments, with slight variations. We use CO+Hi+Hαto trace the interstellar gas phase and find that the PAH fraction decreases above a value ofIHα/ΣHI+H21037.5ergs1kpc2(Mpc2)1in all four galaxies. Radial profiles also show a decreasing PAH fraction with increasing radius, correlated with lower metallicity, in line with previous results showing a strong metallicity dependence to the PAH fraction. Our results suggest that the process of PAH destruction in ionized gas operates similarly across the four targets.

     
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