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  1. 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
  2. Abstract

    We measure the molecular gas environment near recent (<100 yr old) supernovae (SNe) using ∼1″ or ≤150 pc resolution CO (2–1) maps from the PHANGS–Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) survey of nearby star-forming galaxies. This is arguably the first such study to approach the scales of individual massive molecular clouds (Mmol≳ 105.3M). Using the Open Supernova Catalog, we identify 63 SNe within the PHANGS–ALMA footprint. We detect CO (2–1) emission near ∼60% of the sample at 150 pc resolution, compared to ∼35% of map pixels with CO (2–1) emission, and up to ∼95% of the SNe at 1 kpc resolution, compared to ∼80% of map pixels with CO (2–1) emission. We expect the ∼60% of SNe within the same 150 pc beam, as a giant molecular cloud will likely interact with these clouds in the future, consistent with the observation of widespread SN–molecular gas interaction in the Milky Way, while the other ∼40% of SNe without strong CO (2–1) detections will deposit their energy in the diffuse interstellar medium, perhaps helping drive large-scale turbulence or galactic outflows. Broken down by type, we detect CO (2–1) emission at the sites of ∼85% of our 9 stripped-envelope SNe (SESNe), ∼40% of our 34 Type II SNe, and ∼35% of our 13 Type Ia SNe, indicating that SESNe are most closely associated with the brightest CO (2–1) emitting regions in our sample. Our results confirm that SN explosions are not restricted to only the densest gas, and instead exert feedback across a wide range of molecular gas densities.

     
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  3. Abstract

    Post-starburst (PSB), or “E + A,” galaxies represent a rapid transitional phase between major, gas-rich mergers and gas-poor, quiescent, early-type galaxies. Surprisingly, many PSBs have been shown to host a significant interstellar medium (ISM), despite theoretical predictions that the majority of the star-forming gas should be expelled in active galactic nuclei– or starburst-driven outflows. To date, the resolved properties of this surviving ISM have remained unknown. We present high-resolution ALMA continuum and CO(2–1) observations in six gas- and dust-rich PSBs, revealing for the first time the spatial and kinematic structure of their ISM on sub-kpc scales. We find extremely compact molecular reservoirs, with dust and gas surface densities rivaling those found in (ultra)luminous infrared galaxies. We observe spatial and kinematic disturbances in all sources, with some also displaying disk-like kinematics. Estimates of the internal turbulent pressure in the gas exceed those of normal star-forming disks by at least 2 orders of magnitude, and rival the turbulent gas found in local interacting galaxies, such as the Antennae. Though the source of this high turbulent pressure remains uncertain, we suggest that the high incidence of tidal disruption events in PSBs could play a role. The star formation in these PSBs’ turbulent central molecular reservoirs is suppressed, forming stars only 10% as efficiently as starburst galaxies with similar gas surface densities. “The fall” of star formation in these galaxies was not precipitated by complete gas expulsion or redistribution. Rather, this high-resolution view of PSBs’ ISM indicates that star formation in their remaining compact gas reservoirs is suppressed by significant turbulent heating.

     
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  4. 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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  5. 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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  6. 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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  7. 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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  8. ABSTRACT

    In the hierarchical view of star formation, giant molecular clouds (GMCs) undergo fragmentation to form small-scale structures made up of stars and star clusters. Here we study the connection between young star clusters and cold gas across a range of extragalactic environments by combining the high resolution (1″) PHANGS–ALMA catalogue of GMCs with the star cluster catalogues from PHANGS–HST. The star clusters are spatially matched with the GMCs across a sample of 11 nearby star-forming galaxies with a range of galactic environments (centres, bars, spiral arms, etc.). We find that after 4 − 6 Myr the star clusters are no longer associated with any gas clouds. Additionally, we measure the autocorrelation of the star clusters and GMCs as well as their cross-correlation to quantify the fractal nature of hierarchical star formation. Young (≤10 Myr) star clusters are more strongly autocorrelated on kpc and smaller spatial scales than the $\gt \, 10$ Myr stellar populations, indicating that the hierarchical structure dissolves over time.

     
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  9. ABSTRACT

    Connecting the gas in H ii regions to the underlying source of the ionizing radiation can help us constrain the physical processes of stellar feedback and how H ii regions evolve over time. With PHANGS–MUSE, we detect nearly 24 000 H ii regions across 19 galaxies and measure the physical properties of the ionized gas (e.g. metallicity, ionization parameter, and density). We use catalogues of multiscale stellar associations from PHANGS–HST to obtain constraints on the age of the ionizing sources. We construct a matched catalogue of 4177 H ii regions that are clearly linked to a single ionizing association. A weak anticorrelation is observed between the association ages and the $\mathrm{H}\, \alpha$ equivalent width $\mathrm{EW}(\mathrm{H}\, \alpha)$, the $\mathrm{H}\, \alpha/\mathrm{FUV}$ flux ratio, and the ionization parameter, log q. As all three are expected to decrease as the stellar population ages, this could indicate that we observe an evolutionary sequence. This interpretation is further supported by correlations between all three properties. Interpreting these as evolutionary tracers, we find younger nebulae to be more attenuated by dust and closer to giant molecular clouds, in line with recent models of feedback-regulated star formation. We also observe strong correlations with the local metallicity variations and all three proposed age tracers, suggestive of star formation preferentially occurring in locations of locally enhanced metallicity. Overall, $\mathrm{EW}(\mathrm{H}\, \alpha)$ and log q show the most consistent trends and appear to be most reliable tracers for the age of an H ii region.

     
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  10. ABSTRACT We use the angular two-point correlation function (TPCF) to investigate the hierarchical distribution of young star clusters in 12 local (3–18 Mpc) star-forming galaxies using star cluster catalogs obtained with the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) as part of the Treasury Program Legacy ExtraGalactic UV Survey. The sample spans a range of different morphological types, allowing us to infer how the physical properties of the galaxy affect the spatial distribution of the clusters. We also prepare a range of physically motivated toy models to compare with and interpret the observed features in the TPCFs. We find that, conforming to earlier studies, young clusters ($T \lesssim 10\, \mathrm{Myr}$) have power-law TPCFs that are characteristic of fractal distributions with a fractal dimension D2, and this scale-free nature extends out to a maximum scale lcorr beyond which the distribution becomes Poissonian. However, lcorr, and D2 vary significantly across the sample, and are correlated with a number of host galaxy physical properties, suggesting that there are physical differences in the underlying star cluster distributions. We also find that hierarchical structuring weakens with age, evidenced by flatter TPCFs for older clusters ($T \gtrsim 10\, \mathrm{Myr}$), that eventually converges to the residual correlation expected from a completely random large-scale radial distribution of clusters in the galaxy in $\sim 100 \, \mathrm{Myr}$. Our study demonstrates that the hierarchical distribution of star clusters evolves with age, and is strongly dependent on the properties of the host galaxy environment. 
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