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  1. The morphology of the Milky Way is still a matter of debate. In order to shed light on uncertainties surrounding the structure of the Galaxy, in this paper, we study the imprint of spiral arms on the distribution and properties of its molecular gas. To do so, we take full advantage of the SEDIGISM (Structure, Excitation, and Dynamics of the Inner Galactic Interstellar Medium) survey that observed a large area of the inner Galaxy in the 13 CO (2–1) line at an angular resolution of 28′′. We analyse the influences of the spiral arms by considering the features of the molecular gas emission as a whole across the longitude–velocity map built from the full survey. Additionally, we examine the properties of the molecular clouds in the spiral arms compared to the properties of their counterparts in the inter-arm regions. Through flux and luminosity probability distribution functions, we find that the molecular gas emission associated with the spiral arms does not differ significantly from the emission between the arms. On average, spiral arms show masses per unit length of ~10 5 –10 6 M ⊙ kpc −1 . This is similar to values inferred from data sets in which emission distributionsmore »were segmented into molecular clouds. By examining the cloud distribution across the Galactic plane, we infer that the molecular mass in the spiral arms is a factor of 1.5 higher than that of the inter-arm medium, similar to what is found for other spiral galaxies in the local Universe. We observe that only the distributions of cloud mass surface densities and aspect ratio in the spiral arms show significant differences compared to those of the inter-arm medium; other observed differences appear instead to be driven by a distance bias. By comparing our results with simulations and observations of nearby galaxies, we conclude that the measured quantities would classify the Milky Way as a flocculent spiral galaxy, rather than as a grand-design one.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available February 1, 2023
  2. Context. Recent surveys of the Galactic plane in the dust continuum and CO emission lines reveal that large (≳50 pc) and massive (≳10 5 M ⊙ ) filaments, know as giant molecular filaments (GMFs), may be linked to Galactic dynamics and trace the mid-plane of the gravitational potential in the Milky Way. Yet our physical understanding of GMFs is still poor. Aims. We investigate the dense gas properties of one GMF, with the ultimate goal of connecting these dense gas tracers with star formation processes in the GMF. Methods. We imaged one entire GMF located at l ~ 52–54° longitude, GMF54 (~68 pc long), in the empirical dense gas tracers using the HCN(1–0), HNC(1–0), and HCO + (1–0) lines, and their 13 C isotopologue transitions, as well as the N 2 H + (1–0) line. We studied the dense gas distribution, the column density probability density functions (N-PDFs), and the line ratios within the GMF. Results. The dense gas molecular transitions follow the extended structure of the filament with area filling factors between 0.06 and 0.28 with respect to 13 CO(1–0). We constructed the N-PDFs of H 2 for each of the dense gas tracers based on their column densitiesmore »and assumed uniform abundance. The N-PDFs of the dense gas tracers appear curved in log–log representation, and the HCO + N-PDF has the flattest power-law slope index. Studying the N-PDFs for sub-regions of GMF54, we found an evolutionary trend in the N-PDFs that high-mass star-forming and photon-dominated regions have flatter power-law indices. The integrated intensity ratios of the molecular lines in GMF54 are comparable to those in nearby galaxies. In particular, the N 2 H + / 13 CO ratio, which traces the dense gas fraction, has similar values in GMF54 and all nearby galaxies except Ultraluminous Infrared Galaxies. Conclusions. As the largest coherent cold gaseous structure in our Milky Way, GMFs, are outstanding candidates for connecting studies of star formation on Galactic and extragalactic scales. By analyzing a complete map of the dense gas in a GMF we have found that: (1) the dense gas N-PDFs appear flatter in more evolved regions and steeper in younger regions, and (2) its integrated dense gas intensity ratios are similar to those of nearby galaxies.« less