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  1. 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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  2. 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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  3. 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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  4. Abstract

    The earliest stages of star formation, when young stars are still deeply embedded in their natal clouds, represent a critical phase in the matter cycle between gas clouds and young stellar regions. Until now, the high-resolution infrared observations required for characterizing this heavily obscured phase (during which massive stars have formed, but optical emission is not detected) could only be obtained for a handful of the most nearby galaxies. One of the main hurdles has been the limited angular resolution of the Spitzer Space Telescope. With the revolutionary capabilities of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), it is now possible to investigate the matter cycle during the earliest phases of star formation as a function of the galactic environment. In this Letter, we demonstrate this by measuring the duration of the embedded phase of star formation and the implied time over which molecular clouds remain inert in the galaxy NGC 628 at a distance of 9.8 Mpc, demonstrating that the cosmic volume where this measurement can be made has increased by a factor of >100 compared to Spitzer. We show that young massive stars remain embedded for5.11.4+2.7Myr (2.31.4+2.7Myr of which being heavily obscured), representing ∼20% of the total cloud lifetime. These values are in broad agreement with previous measurements in five nearby (D< 3.5 Mpc) galaxies and constitute a proof of concept for the systematic characterization of the early phase of star formation across the nearby galaxy population with the PHANGS–JWST survey.

     
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  5. 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 cloud 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.

     
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  6. Abstract We measure the low- J CO line ratios R 21 ≡ CO (2–1)/CO (1–0), R 32 ≡ CO (3–2)/CO (2–1), and R 31 ≡CO (3–2)/CO (1–0) using whole-disk CO maps of nearby galaxies. We draw CO (2–1) from PHANGS-ALMA, HERACLES, and follow-up IRAM surveys; CO (1–0) from COMING and the Nobeyama CO Atlas of Nearby Spiral Galaxies; and CO (3–2) from the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope Nearby Galaxy Legacy Survey and Atacama Pathfinder Experiment Large APEX Sub-Millimetre Array mapping. All together, this yields 76, 47, and 29 maps of R 21 , R 32 , and R 31 at 20″ ∼ 1.3 kpc resolution, covering 43, 34, and 20 galaxies. Disk galaxies with high stellar mass, log ( M ⋆ / M ⊙ ) = 10.25 – 11 , and star formation rate (SFR) = 1–5 M ⊙ yr −1 , dominate the sample. We find galaxy-integrated mean values and a 16%–84% range of R 21 = 0.65 (0.50–0.83), R 32 = 0.50 (0.23–0.59), and R 31 = 0.31 (0.20–0.42). We identify weak trends relating galaxy-integrated line ratios to properties expected to correlate with excitation, including SFR/ M ⋆ and SFR/ L CO . Within galaxies, we measure central enhancements with respect to the galaxy-averaged value of ∼ 0.18 − 0.14 + 0.09 dex for R 21 , 0.27 − 0.15 + 0.13 dex for R 31 , and 0.08 − 0.09 + 0.11 dex for R 32 . All three line ratios anticorrelate with galactocentric radius and positively correlate with the local SFR surface density and specific SFR, and we provide approximate fits to these relations. The observed ratios can be reasonably reproduced by models with low temperature, moderate opacity, and moderate densities, in good agreement with expectations for the cold interstellar medium. Because the line ratios are expected to anticorrelate with the CO (1–0)-to-H 2 conversion factor, α CO 1 − 0 , these results have general implications for the interpretation of CO emission from galaxies. 
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  7. Abstract

    We compare embedded young massive star clusters (YMCs) to (sub-)millimeter line observations tracing the excitation and dissociation of molecular gas in the starburst ring of NGC 1365. This galaxy hosts one of the strongest nuclear starbursts and richest populations of YMCs within 20 Mpc. Here we combine near-/mid-IR PHANGS–JWST imaging with new Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array multi-JCO (1–0, 2–1 and 4–3) and [Ci] (1–0) mapping, which we use to trace CO excitation viaR42=ICO(4−3)/ICO(2−1)andR21=ICO(2−1)/ICO(1−0)and dissociation viaRCICO=I[CI](1−0)/ICO(2−1)at 330 pc resolution. We find that the gas flowing into the starburst ring from northeast to southwest appears strongly affected by stellar feedback, showing decreased excitation (lowerR42) and increased signatures of dissociation (higherRCICO) in the downstream regions. There, radiative-transfer modeling suggests that the molecular gas density decreases and temperature and [CI/CO] abundance ratio increase. We compareR42andRCICOwith local conditions across the regions and find that both correlate with near-IR 2μm emission tracing the YMCs and with both polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (11.3μm) and dust continuum (21μm) emission. In general,RCICOexhibits ∼0.1 dex tighter correlations thanR42, suggestingCito be a more sensitive tracer of changing physical conditions in the NGC 1365 starburst than CO (4–3). Our results are consistent with a scenario where gas flows into the two arm regions along the bar, becomes condensed/shocked, forms YMCs, and then these YMCs heat and dissociate the gas.

     
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  8. null (Ed.)
    ABSTRACT Feedback from massive stars plays a key role in molecular cloud evolution. After the onset of star formation, the young stellar population is exposed by photoionization, winds, supernovae, and radiation pressure from massive stars. Recent observations of nearby galaxies have provided the evolutionary timeline between molecular clouds and exposed young stars, but the duration of the embedded phase of massive star formation is still ill-constrained. We measure how long massive stellar populations remain embedded within their natal cloud, by applying a statistical method to six nearby galaxies at $20{-}100~\mbox{${\rm ~pc}$}$ resolution, using CO, Spitzer 24$\rm \, \mu m$, and H α emission as tracers of molecular clouds, embedded star formation, and exposed star formation, respectively. We find that the embedded phase (with CO and 24$\rm \, \mu m$ emission) lasts for 2−7 Myr and constitutes $17{-}47{{\ \rm per\ cent}}$ of the cloud lifetime. During approximately the first half of this phase, the region is invisible in H α, making it heavily obscured. For the second half of this phase, the region also emits in H α and is partially exposed. Once the cloud has been dispersed by feedback, 24$\rm \, \mu m$ emission no longer traces ongoing star formation, but remains detectable for another 2−9 Myr through the emission from ambient CO-dark gas, tracing star formation that recently ended. The short duration of massive star formation suggests that pre-supernova feedback (photoionization and winds) is important in disrupting molecular clouds. The measured time-scales do not show significant correlations with environmental properties (e.g. metallicity). Future JWST observations will enable these measurements routinely across the nearby galaxy population. 
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  9. Abstract

    JWST observations of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) emission provide some of the deepest and highest resolution views of the cold interstellar medium (ISM) in nearby galaxies. If PAHs are well mixed with the atomic and molecular gas and illuminated by the average diffuse interstellar radiation field, PAH emission may provide an approximately linear, high-resolution, high-sensitivity tracer of diffuse gas surface density. We present a pilot study that explores using PAH emission in this way based on Mid-Infrared Instrument observations of IC 5332, NGC 628, NGC 1365, and NGC 7496 from the Physics at High Angular resolution in Nearby GalaxieS-JWST Treasury. Using scaling relationships calibrated in Leroy et al., scaled F1130W provides 10–40 pc resolution and 3σsensitivity of Σgas∼ 2Mpc−2. We characterize the surface densities of structures seen at <7Mpc−2in our targets, where we expect the gas to be Hi-dominated. We highlight the existence of filaments, interarm emission, and holes in the diffuse ISM at these low surface densities. Below ∼10Mpc−2for NGC 628, NGC 1365, and NGC 7496 the gas distribution shows a “Swiss cheese”-like topology due to holes and bubbles pervading the relatively smooth distribution of the diffuse ISM. Comparing to recent galaxy simulations, we observe similar topology for the low-surface-density gas, though with notable variations between simulations with different setups and resolution. Such a comparison of high-resolution, low-surface-density gas with simulations is not possible with existing atomic and molecular gas maps, highlighting the unique power of JWST maps of PAH emission.

     
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