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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 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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  3. 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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    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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  5. Abstract

    We present new 0.3–21μm photometry of SN 2021aefx in the spiral galaxy NGC 1566 at +357 days afterB-band maximum, including the first detection of any Type Ia supernova (SN Ia) at >15μm. These observations follow earlier JWST observations of SN 2021aefx at +255 days after the time of maximum brightness, allowing us to probe the temporal evolution of the emission properties. We measure the fraction of flux emerging at different wavelengths and its temporal evolution. Additionally, the integrated 0.3–14μm decay rate of Δm0.3–14= 1.35 ± 0.05 mag/100 days is higher than the decline rate from the radioactive decay of56Co of ∼1.2 mag/100 days. The most plausible explanation for this discrepancy is that flux is shifting to >14μm, and future JWST observations of SNe Ia will be able to directly test this hypothesis. However, models predicting nonradiative energy loss cannot be excluded with the present data.

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  6. 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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  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. Abstract

    Large-scale bars can fuel galaxy centers with molecular gas, often leading to the development of dense ringlike structures where intense star formation occurs, forming a very different environment compared to galactic disks. We pair ∼0.″3 (30 pc) resolution new JWST/MIRI imaging with archival ALMA CO(2–1) mapping of the central ∼5 kpc of the nearby barred spiral galaxy NGC 1365 to investigate the physical mechanisms responsible for this extreme star formation. The molecular gas morphology is resolved into two well-known bright bar lanes that surround a smooth dynamically cold gas disk (Rgal∼ 475 pc) reminiscent of non-star-forming disks in early-type galaxies and likely fed by gas inflow triggered by stellar feedback in the lanes. The lanes host a large number of JWST-identified massive young star clusters. We find some evidence for temporal star formation evolution along the ring. The complex kinematics in the gas lanes reveal strong streaming motions and may be consistent with convergence of gas streamlines expected there. Indeed, the extreme line widths are found to be the result of inter-“cloud” motion between gas peaks;ScousePydecomposition reveals multiple components with line widths of 〈σCO,scouse〉 ≈ 19 km s−1and surface densities ofΣH2,scouse800Mpc2, similar to the properties observed throughout the rest of the central molecular gas structure. Tailored hydrodynamical simulations exhibit many of the observed properties and imply that the observed structures are transient and highly time-variable. From our study of NGC 1365, we conclude that it is predominantly the high gas inflow triggered by the bar that is setting the star formation in its CMZ.

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  9. Abstract

    We combine JWST observations with Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array CO and Very Large Telescope MUSE Hαdata to examine off-spiral arm star formation in the face-on, grand-design spiral galaxy NGC 628. We focus on the northern spiral arm, around a galactocentric radius of 3–4 kpc, and study two spurs. These form an interesting contrast, as one is CO-rich and one CO-poor, and they have a maximum azimuthal offset in MIRI 21μm and MUSE Hαof around 40° (CO-rich) and 55° (CO-poor) from the spiral arm. The star formation rate is higher in the regions of the spurs near spiral arms, but the star formation efficiency appears relatively constant. Given the spiral pattern speed and rotation curve of this galaxy and assuming material exiting the arms undergoes purely circular motion, these offsets would be reached in 100–150 Myr, significantly longer than the 21μm and Hαstar formation timescales (both < 10 Myr). The invariance of the star formation efficiency in the spurs versus the spiral arms indicates massive star formation is not only triggered in spiral arms, and cannot simply occur in the arms and then drift away from the wave pattern. These early JWST results show that in situ star formation likely occurs in the spurs, and that the observed young stars are not simply the “leftovers” of stellar birth in the spiral arms. The excellent physical resolution and sensitivity that JWST can attain in nearby galaxies will well resolve individual star-forming regions and help us to better understand the earliest phases of star formation.

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  10. 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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