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  1. ABSTRACT

    The low-J rotational transitions of 12CO are commonly used to trace the distribution of molecular gas in galaxies. Their ratios are sensitive to excitation and physical conditions in the molecular gas. Spatially resolved studies of CO ratios are still sparse and affected by flux calibration uncertainties, especially since most do not have high angular resolution or do not have short-spacing information and hence miss any diffuse emission. We compare the low-J CO ratios across the disc of two massive, star-forming spiral galaxies NGC 2903 and NGC 3627 to investigate whether and how local environments drive excitation variations at GMC scales. We use Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) observations of the three lowest-J CO transitions at a common angular resolution of 4 arcsec (190 pc). We measure median line ratios of $R_{21}=0.67^{+0.13}_{-0.11}$, $R_{32}=0.33^{+0.09}_{-0.08}$, and $R_{31}=0.24^{+0.10}_{-0.09}$ across the full disc of NGC 3627. We see clear CO line ratio variation across the galaxy consistent with changes in temperature and density of the molecular gas. In particular, towards the centre, R21, R32, and R31 increase by 35  per cent, 50  per cent, and 66  per cent, respectively, compared to their average disc values. The overall line ratio trends suggest that CO(3–2) is more sensitive to changes in the excitation conditions than the two lower J transitions. Furthermore, we find a similar radial R32 trend in NGC 2903, albeit a larger disc-wide average of $\langle R_{32}\rangle =0.47^{+0.14}_{-0.08}$. We conclude that the CO low-J line ratios vary across environments in such a way that they can trace changes in the molecular gas conditions, with the main driver being changes in temperature.

     
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  2. Nitrogen hydrides such as NH3 and N2H+ are widely used by Galactic observers to trace the cold dense regions of the interstellar medium. In external galaxies, because of limited sensitivity, HCN has become the most common tracer of dense gas over large parts of galaxies. We provide the first systematic measurements of N2H+ (1-0) across different environments of an external spiral galaxy, NGC 6946. We find a strong correlation (r > 0.98, p < 0.01) between the HCN (1-0) and N2H+ (1-0) intensities across the inner ∼8 kpc of the galaxy, at kiloparsec scales. This correlation is equally strong between the ratios N2H+ (1-0)/CO (1-0) and HCN (1-0)/CO (1-0), tracers of dense gas fractions (fdense). We measure an average intensity ratio of N2H+ (1-0)/HCN (1-0) = 0.15 ± 0.02 over our set of five IRAM-30m pointings. These trends are further supported by existing measurements for Galactic and extragalactic sources. This narrow distribution in the average ratio suggests that the observed systematic trends found in kiloparsec-scale extragalactic studies of fdense and the efficiency of dense gas (SFEdense) would not change if we employed N2H+ (1-0) as a more direct tracer of dense gas. At kiloparsec scales our results indicate that the HCN (1-0) emission can be used to predict the expected N2H+ (1-0) over those regions. Our results suggest that, even if HCN (1-0) and N2H+ (1-0) trace different density regimes within molecular clouds, subcloud differences average out at kiloparsec scales, yielding the two tracers proportional to each other. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available August 1, 2024
  3. Abstract

    We report on the discovery of linear filaments observed in the CO(1-0) emission for a ∼2′ field of view toward the Sgr E star-forming region, centered at (l,b) = (358.°720, 0.°011). The Sgr E region is thought to be at the turbulent intersection of the “far dust lane” associated with the Galactic bar and the Central Molecular Zone (CMZ). This region is subject to strong accelerations, which are generally thought to inhibit star formation, yet Sgr E contains a large number of Hiiregions. We present12CO(1-0),13CO(1-0), and C18O(1-0) spectral line observations from the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array and provide measurements of the physical and kinematic properties for two of the brightest filaments. These filaments have widths (FWHMs) of ∼0.1 pc and are oriented nearly parallel to the Galactic plane, with angles from the Galactic plane of ∼2°. The filaments are elongated, with lower-limit aspect ratios of ∼5:1. For both filaments, we detect two distinct velocity components that are separated by about 15 km s−1. In the C18O spectral line data, with ∼0.09 pc spatial resolution, we find that these velocity components have relatively narrow (∼1–2 km s−1) FWHM line widths when compared to other sources toward the Galactic center. The properties of these filaments suggest that the gas in the Sgr E complex is being “stretched,” as it is rapidly accelerated by the gravitational field of the Galactic bar while falling toward the CMZ, a result that could provide insights into the extreme environment surrounding this region and the large-scale processes that fuel this environment.

     
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  4. The complex physical, kinematic, and chemical properties of galaxy centres make them interesting environments to examine with molecular line emission. We present new 2 − 4″ (∼75 − 150 pc at 7.7 Mpc) observations at 2 and 3 mm covering the central 50″ (∼1.9 kpc) of the nearby double-barred spiral galaxy NGC 6946 obtained with the IRAM Plateau de Bure Interferometer. We detect spectral lines from ten molecules: CO, HCN, HCO + , HNC, CS, HC 3 N, N 2 H + , C 2 H, CH 3 OH, and H 2 CO. We complemented these with published 1 mm CO observations and 33 GHz continuum observations to explore the star formation rate surface density Σ SFR on 150 pc scales. In this paper, we analyse regions associated with the inner bar of NGC 6946 – the nuclear region (NUC), the northern (NBE), and southern inner bar end (SBE) and we focus on short-spacing corrected bulk (CO) and dense gas tracers (HCN, HCO + , and HNC). We find that HCO + correlates best with Σ SFR , but the dense gas fraction ( f dense ) and star formation efficiency of the dense gas (SFE dense ) fits show different behaviours than expected from large-scale disc observations. The SBE has a higher Σ SFR , f dense , and shocked gas fraction than the NBE. We examine line ratio diagnostics and find a higher CO(2−1)/CO(1−0) ratio towards NBE than for the NUC. Moreover, comparison with existing extragalactic datasets suggests that using the HCN/HNC ratio to probe kinetic temperatures is not suitable on kiloparsec and sub-kiloparsec scales in extragalactic regions. Lastly, our study shows that the HCO + /HCN ratio might not be a unique indicator to diagnose AGN activity in galaxies. 
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  5. ABSTRACT The feedback from young stars (i.e. pre-supernova) is thought to play a crucial role in molecular cloud destruction. In this paper, we assess the feedback mechanisms acting within a sample of 5810 H ii regions identified from the PHANGS-MUSE survey of 19 nearby (<20 Mpc) star-forming, main-sequence spiral galaxies [log(M⋆/M⊙) = 9.4–11]. These optical spectroscopic maps are essential to constrain the physical properties of the H ii regions, which we use to investigate their internal pressure terms. We estimate the photoionized gas (Ptherm), direct radiation (Prad), and mechanical wind pressure (Pwind), which we compare to the confining pressure of their host environment (Pde). The H ii regions remain unresolved within our ∼50–100 pc resolution observations, so we place upper (Pmax) and lower (Pmin) limits on each of the pressures by using a minimum (i.e. clumpy structure) and maximum (i.e. smooth structure) size, respectively. We find that the Pmax measurements are broadly similar, and for Pmin the Ptherm is mildly dominant. We find that the majority of H ii regions are overpressured, Ptot/Pde = (Ptherm + Pwind + Prad)/Pde > 1, and expanding, yet there is a small sample of compact H ii regions with Ptot,max/Pde < 1 (∼1 per cent of the sample). These mostly reside in galaxy centres (Rgal < 1 kpc), or, specifically, environments of high gas surface density; log(Σgas/M⊙ pc−2) ∼ 2.5 (measured on kpc-scales). Lastly, we compare to a sample of literature measurements for Ptherm and Prad to investigate how dominant pressure term transitions over around 5 dex in spatial dynamic range and 10 dex in pressure. 
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  6. ABSTRACT The current generation of (sub)mm-telescopes has allowed molecular line emission to become a major tool for studying the physical, kinematic, and chemical properties of extragalactic systems, yet exploiting these observations requires a detailed understanding of where emission lines originate within the Milky Way. In this paper, we present 60 arcsec (∼3 pc) resolution observations of many 3 mm band molecular lines across a large map of the W49 massive star-forming region (∼100 pc × 100 pc at 11 kpc), which were taken as part of the ‘LEGO’ IRAM-30m large project. We find that the spatial extent or brightness of the molecular line transitions are not well correlated with their critical densities, highlighting abundance and optical depth must be considered when estimating line emission characteristics. We explore how the total emission and emission efficiency (i.e. line brightness per H2 column density) of the line emission vary as a function of molecular hydrogen column density and dust temperature. We find that there is not a single region of this parameter space responsible for the brightest and most efficiently emitting gas for all species. For example, we find that the HCN transition shows high emission efficiency at high column density (1022 cm−2) and moderate temperatures (35 K), whilst e.g. N2H+ emits most efficiently towards lower temperatures (1022 cm−2; <20 K). We determine $X_{\mathrm{CO} (1-0)} \sim 0.3 \times 10^{20} \, \mathrm{cm^{-2}\, (K\, km\, s^{-1})^{-1}}$, and $\alpha _{\mathrm{HCN} (1-0)} \sim 30\, \mathrm{M_\odot \, (K\, km\, s^{-1}\, pc^2)^{-1}}$, which both differ significantly from the commonly adopted values. In all, these results suggest caution should be taken when interpreting molecular line emission. 
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  7. It remains unclear what sets the efficiency with which molecular gas transforms into stars. Here we present a new VLA map of the spiral galaxy M 51 in 33 GHz radio continuum, an extinction-free tracer of star formation, at 3″ scales (∼100 pc). We combined this map with interferometric PdBI/NOEMA observations of CO(1–0) and HCN(1–0) at matched resolution for three regions in M 51 (central molecular ring, northern and southern spiral arm segments). While our measurements roughly fall on the well-known correlation between total infrared and HCN luminosity, bridging the gap between Galactic and extragalactic observations, we find systematic offsets from that relation for different dynamical environments probed in M 51; for example, the southern arm segment is more quiescent due to low star formation efficiency (SFE) of the dense gas, despite its high dense gas fraction. Combining our results with measurements from the literature at 100 pc scales, we find that the SFE of the dense gas and the dense gas fraction anti-correlate and correlate, respectively, with the local stellar mass surface density. This is consistent with previous kpc-scale studies. In addition, we find a significant anti-correlation between the SFE and velocity dispersion of the dense gas. Finally, we confirm that a correlation also holds between star formation rate surface density and the dense gas fraction, but it is not stronger than the correlation with dense gas surface density. Our results are hard to reconcile with models relying on a universal gas density threshold for star formation and suggest that turbulence and galactic dynamics play a major role in setting how efficiently dense gas converts into stars. 
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