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  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 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
  3. ABSTRACT Observations of molecular gas near the Galactic Centre (|l| < 10°, |b| < 1°) reveal the presence of a distinct population of enigmatic compact clouds that are characterized by extreme velocity dispersions ($\Delta v \gt 100\, {\rm km\, s^{-1}}$). These extended velocity features are very prominent in the data cubes and dominate the kinematics of molecular gas just outside the Central Molecular Zone (CMZ). The prototypical example of such a cloud is Bania Clump 2. We show that similar features are naturally produced in simulations of gas flow in a realistic barred potential. We analyse the structure of the features obtained in the simulations and use this to interpret the observations. We find that the features arise from collisions between material that has been infalling rapidly along the dust lanes of the Milky Way bar and material that belongs to one of the following two categories: (i) material that has ‘overshot’ after falling down the dust lanes on the opposite side; (ii) material which is part of the CMZ. Both types of collisions involve gas with large differences in the line-of-sight velocities, which is what produces the observed extreme velocity dispersions. Examples of both categories can be identified inmore »the observations. If our interpretation is correct, we are directly witnessing (a) collisions of clouds with relative speeds of $\sim 200\, {\rm km\, s^{-1}}$ and (b) the process of accretion of fresh gas onto the CMZ.« less
  4. ABSTRACT

    We present here the first of a series of papers aimed at better understanding the evolution and properties of giant molecular clouds (GMCs) in a galactic context. We perform high-resolution, three-dimensional arepo simulations of an interacting galaxy inspired by the well-observed M51 galaxy. Our fiducial simulations include a non-equilibrium, time-dependent, chemical network that follows the evolution of atomic and molecular hydrogen as well as carbon and oxygen self-consistently. Our calculations also treat gas self-gravity and subsequent star formation (described by sink particles), and coupled supernova feedback. In the densest parts of the simulated interstellar medium (ISM), we reach sub-parsec resolution, granting us the ability to resolve individual GMCs and their formation and destruction self-consistently throughout the galaxy. In this initial work, we focus on the general properties of the ISM with a particular focus on the cold star-forming gas. We discuss the role of the interaction with the companion galaxy in generating cold molecular gas and controlling stellar birth. We find that while the interaction drives large-scale gas flows and induces spiral arms in the galaxy, it is of secondary importance in determining gas fractions in the different ISM phases and the overall star formation rate. The behaviour ofmore »the gas on small GMC scales instead is mostly controlled by the self-regulating property of the ISM driven by coupled feedback.

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  5. ABSTRACT

    We introduce a new suite of simulations, ‘The Cloud Factory’, which self-consistently forms molecular cloud complexes at high enough resolution to resolve internal substructure (up to 0.25 M⊙ in mass) all while including galactic-scale forces. We use a version of the arepo code modified to include a detailed treatment of the physics of the cold molecular ISM, and an analytical galactic gravitational potential for computational efficiency. The simulations have nested levels of resolution, with the lowest layer tied to tracer particles injected into individual cloud complexes. These tracer refinement regions are embedded in the larger simulation so continue to experience forces from outside the cloud. This allows the simulations to act as a laboratory for testing the effect of galactic environment on star formation. Here we introduce our method and investigate the effect of galactic environment on filamentary clouds. We find that cloud complexes formed after a clustered burst of feedback have shorter lengths and are less likely to fragment compared to quiescent clouds (e.g. the Musca filament) or those dominated by the galactic potential (e.g. Nessie). Spiral arms and differential rotation preferentially align filaments, but strong feedback randomizes them. Long filaments formed within the cloud complexes are necessarily coherentmore »with low internal velocity gradients, which has implications for the formation of filamentary star-clusters. Cloud complexes formed in regions dominated by supernova feedback have fewer star-forming cores, and these are more widely distributed. These differences show galactic-scale forces can have a significant impact on star formation within molecular clouds.

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