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  1. Abstract

    Determining how the galactic environment, especially the high gas densities and complex dynamics in bar-fed galaxy centers, alters the star formation efficiency (SFE) of molecular gas is critical to understanding galaxy evolution. However, these same physical or dynamical effects also alter the emissivity properties of CO, leading to variations in the CO-to-H2conversion factor (αCO) that impact the assessment of the gas column densities and thus of the SFE. To address such issues, we investigate the dependence ofαCOon the local CO velocity dispersion at 150 pc scales using a new set of dust-basedαCOmeasurements and propose a newαCOprescription that accounts for CO emissivity variations across galaxies. Based on this prescription, we estimate the SFE in a sample of 65 galaxies from the PHANGS–Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array survey. We find increasing SFE toward high-surface-density regions like galaxy centers, while using a constant or metallicity-basedαCOresults in a more homogeneous SFE throughout the centers and disks. Our prescription further reveals a mean molecular gas depletion time of 700 Myr in the centers of barred galaxies, which is overall three to four times shorter than in nonbarred galaxy centers or the disks. Across the galaxy disks, the depletion time is consistently around 2–3 Gyr, regardless of the choice ofαCOprescription. All together, our results suggest that the high level of star formation activity in barred centers is not simply due to an increased amount of molecular gas, but also to an enhanced SFE compared to nonbarred centers or disk regions.

     
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  2. Abstract The CO-to-H 2 conversion factor ( α CO ) is central to measuring the amount and properties of molecular gas. It is known to vary with environmental conditions, and previous studies have revealed lower α CO in the centers of some barred galaxies on kiloparsec scales. To unveil the physical drivers of such variations, we obtained Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array bands (3), (6), and (7) observations toward the inner ∼2 kpc of NGC 3627 and NGC 4321 tracing 12 CO, 13 CO, and C 18 O lines on ∼100 pc scales. Our multiline modeling and Bayesian likelihood analysis of these data sets reveal variations of molecular gas density, temperature, optical depth, and velocity dispersion, which are among the key drivers of α CO . The central 300 pc nuclei in both galaxies show strong enhancement of temperature T k ≳ 100 K and density n H 2 > 10 3 cm −3 . Assuming a CO-to-H 2 abundance of 3 × 10 −4 , we derive 4–15 times lower α CO than the Galactic value across our maps, which agrees well with previous kiloparsec-scale measurements. Combining the results with our previous work on NGC 3351, we find a strong correlation of α CO with low- J 12 CO optical depths ( τ CO ), as well as an anticorrelation with T k . The τ CO correlation explains most of the α CO variation in the three galaxy centers, whereas changes in T k influence α CO to second order. Overall, the observed line width and 12 CO/ 13 CO 2–1 line ratio correlate with τ CO variation in these centers, and thus they are useful observational indicators for α CO variation. We also test current simulation-based α CO prescriptions and find a systematic overprediction, which likely originates from the mismatch of gas conditions between our data and the simulations. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 1, 2024
  3. ABSTRACT

    We present radial gas-phase metallicity profiles, gradients, and break radii at redshift z = 0–3 from the TNG50-1 star-forming galaxy population. These metallicity profiles are characterized by an emphasis on identifying the steep inner gradient and flat outer gradient. From this, the break radius, Rbreak, is defined as the region where the transition occurs. We observe the break radius having a positive trend with mass that weakens with redshift. When normalized by the stellar half-mass radius, the break radius has a weaker relation with both mass and redshift. To test if our results are dependent on the resolution or adopted physics of TNG50-1, the same analysis is performed in TNG50-2 and Illustris-1. We find general agreement between each of the simulations in their qualitative trends; however, the adopted physics between TNG and Illustris differ and therefore the breaks, normalized by galaxy size, deviate by a factor of ∼2. In order to understand where the break comes from, we define two relevant time-scales: an enrichment time-scale and a radial gas mixing time-scale. We find that Rbreak occurs where the gas mixing time-scale is ∼10 times as long as the enrichment time-scale in all three simulation runs, with some weak mass and redshift dependence. This implies that galactic discs can be thought of in two-parts: a star-forming inner disc with a steep gradient and a mixing-dominated outer disc with a flat gradient, with the break radius marking the region of transition between them.

     
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  4. ABSTRACT

    Galactic bars can drive cold gas inflows towards the centres of galaxies. The gas transport happens primarily through the so-called bar dust lanes, which connect the galactic disc at kpc scales to the nuclear rings at hundreds of pc scales much like two gigantic galactic rivers. Once in the ring, the gas can fuel star formation activity, galactic outflows, and central supermassive black holes. Measuring the mass inflow rates is therefore important to understanding the mass/energy budget and evolution of galactic nuclei. In this work, we use CO datacubes from the PHANGS-ALMA survey and a simple geometrical method to measure the bar-driven mass inflow rate on to the nuclear ring of the barred galaxy NGC 1097. The method assumes that the gas velocity in the bar lanes is parallel to the lanes in the frame co-rotating with the bar, and allows one to derive the inflow rates from sufficiently sensitive and resolved position–position–velocity diagrams if the bar pattern speed and galaxy orientations are known. We find an inflow rate of $\dot{M}=(3.0 \pm 2.1)\, \rm M_\odot \, yr^{-1}$ averaged over a time span of 40 Myr, which varies by a factor of a few over time-scales of ∼10 Myr. Most of the inflow appears to be consumed by star formation in the ring, which is currently occurring at a star formation rate (SFR) of $\simeq\!1.8\!-\!2 \, \rm M_\odot \, yr^{-1}$, suggesting that the inflow is causally controlling the SFR in the ring as a function of time.

     
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  5. 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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  6. 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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  7. 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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  8. 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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  9. Abstract Using recently acquired Hubble Space Telescope NIR observations ( J , Pa β , and H bands) of the nearby galaxy NGC 1313, we investigate the timescales required by a young star cluster to emerge from its natal cloud. We search for extincted star clusters, potentially embedded in their natal cloud as either (1) compact sources in regions with high H α /Pa β extinctions or (2) compact H ii regions that appear as point-like sources in the Pa β emission map. The NUV–optical–NIR photometry of the candidate clusters is used to derive their ages, masses, and extinctions via a least- χ 2 spectral energy distribution broad- and narrowband fitting process. The 100 clusters in the final samples have masses in the range and moderate extinctions, E ( B − V ) ≲ 1.0 mag. Focusing on the young clusters (0–6 Myr), we derive a weak correlation between extinction and age of the clusters. Almost half of the clusters have low extinctions, E ( B − V ) < 0.25 mag, already at very young ages (≤3 Myr), suggesting that dust is quickly removed from clusters. A stronger correlation is found between the morphology of the nebular emission (compact, partial or absent, both in H α and Pa β ) and cluster age. Relative fractions of clusters associated with a specific nebular morphology are used to estimate the typical timescales for clearing the natal gas cloud, resulting in between 3 and 5 Myr, ∼1 Myr older than what was estimated from NUV–optical-based cluster studies. This difference hints at a bias for optical-only-based studies, which James Webb Space Telescope will address in the coming years. 
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  10. 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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