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  1. 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.

  2. ABSTRACT When completed, the PHANGS–HST project will provide a census of roughly 50 000 compact star clusters and associations, as well as human morphological classifications for roughly 20 000 of those objects. These large numbers motivated the development of a more objective and repeatable method to help perform source classifications. In this paper, we consider the results for five PHANGS–HST galaxies (NGC 628, NGC 1433, NGC 1566, NGC 3351, NGC 3627) using classifications from two convolutional neural network architectures (RESNET and VGG) trained using deep transfer learning techniques. The results are compared to classifications performed by humans. The primary result is that the neural network classifications are comparable in quality to the human classifications with typical agreement around 70 to 80 per cent for Class 1 clusters (symmetric, centrally concentrated) and 40 to 70 per cent for Class 2 clusters (asymmetric, centrally concentrated). If Class 1 and 2 are considered together the agreement is 82 ± 3 per cent. Dependencies on magnitudes, crowding, and background surface brightness are examined. A detailed description of the criteria and methodology used for the human classifications is included along with an examination of systematic differences between PHANGS–HST and LEGUS. The distribution of data points in a colour–colour diagram is used as a ‘figure ofmore »merit’ to further test the relative performances of the different methods. The effects on science results (e.g. determinations of mass and age functions) of using different cluster classification methods are examined and found to be minimal.« less
  3. 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 anothermore »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.« less
  4. Abstract The PHANGS program is building the first data set to enable the multiphase, multiscale study of star formation across the nearby spiral galaxy population. This effort is enabled by large survey programs with the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), MUSE on the Very Large Telescope, and the Hubble Space Telescope (HST), with which we have obtained CO(2–1) imaging, optical spectroscopic mapping, and high-resolution UV–optical imaging, respectively. Here, we present PHANGS-HST, which has obtained NUV– U – B – V – I imaging of the disks of 38 spiral galaxies at distances of 4–23 Mpc, and parallel V - and I -band imaging of their halos, to provide a census of tens of thousands of compact star clusters and multiscale stellar associations. The combination of HST, ALMA, and VLT/MUSE observations will yield an unprecedented joint catalog of the observed and physical properties of ∼100,000 star clusters, associations, H ii regions, and molecular clouds. With these basic units of star formation, PHANGS will systematically chart the evolutionary cycling between gas and stars across a diversity of galactic environments found in nearby galaxies. We discuss the design of the PHANGS-HST survey and provide an overview of the HST data processing pipeline andmore »first results. We highlight new methods for selecting star cluster candidates, morphological classification of candidates with convolutional neural networks, and identification of stellar associations over a range of physical scales with a watershed algorithm. We describe the cross-observatory imaging, catalogs, and software products to be released. The PHANGS high-level science products will seed a broad range of investigations, in particular, the study of embedded stellar populations and dust with the James Webb Space Telescope, for which a PHANGS Cycle 1 Treasury program to obtain eight-band 2–21 μ m imaging has been approved.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available January 1, 2023
  5. Abstract PHANGS-HST is an ultraviolet-optical imaging survey of 38 spiral galaxies within ∼20 Mpc. Combined with the PHANGS-ALMA, PHANGS-MUSE surveys and other multiwavelength data, the dataset will provide an unprecedented look into the connections between young stars, H ii regions, and cold molecular gas in these nearby star-forming galaxies. Accurate distances are needed to transform measured observables into physical parameters (e.g., brightness to luminosity, angular to physical sizes of molecular clouds, star clusters and associations). PHANGS-HST has obtained parallel ACS imaging of the galaxy halos in the F606W and F814W bands. Where possible, we use these parallel fields to derive tip of the red giant branch (TRGB) distances to these galaxies. In this paper, we present TRGB distances for 11 galaxies from ∼4 to ∼15 Mpc, based on the first year of PHANGS-HST observations. Five of these represent the first published TRGB distance measurements (IC 5332, NGC 2835, NGC 4298, NGC 4321, and NGC 4328), and eight of which are the best available distances to these targets. We also provide a compilation of distances for the 118 galaxies in the full PHANGS sample, which have been adopted for the first PHANGS-ALMA public data release.
  6. ABSTRACT We present the results of a proof-of-concept experiment that demonstrates that deep learning can successfully be used for production-scale classification of compact star clusters detected in Hubble Space Telescope(HST) ultraviolet-optical imaging of nearby spiral galaxies ($D\lesssim 20\, \textrm{Mpc}$) in the Physics at High Angular Resolution in Nearby GalaxieS (PHANGS)–HST survey. Given the relatively small nature of existing, human-labelled star cluster samples, we transfer the knowledge of state-of-the-art neural network models for real-object recognition to classify star clusters candidates into four morphological classes. We perform a series of experiments to determine the dependence of classification performance on neural network architecture (ResNet18 and VGG19-BN), training data sets curated by either a single expert or three astronomers, and the size of the images used for training. We find that the overall classification accuracies are not significantly affected by these choices. The networks are used to classify star cluster candidates in the PHANGS–HST galaxy NGC 1559, which was not included in the training samples. The resulting prediction accuracies are 70 per cent, 40 per cent, 40–50 per cent, and 50–70 per cent for class 1, 2, 3 star clusters, and class 4 non-clusters, respectively. This performance is competitive with consistency achieved in previously published human and automated quantitative classification of starmore »cluster candidate samples (70–80 per cent, 40–50 per cent, 40–50 per cent, and 60–70 per cent). The methods introduced herein lay the foundations to automate classification for star clusters at scale, and exhibit the need to prepare a standardized data set of human-labelled star cluster classifications, agreed upon by a full range of experts in the field, to further improve the performance of the networks introduced in this study.« less
  7. ABSTRACT The spatial distribution of metals reflects, and can be used to constrain, the processes of chemical enrichment and mixing. Using PHANGS-MUSE optical integral field spectroscopy, we measure the gas-phase oxygen abundances (metallicities) across 7138 H ii regions in a sample of eight nearby disc galaxies. In Paper I, we measure and report linear radial gradients in the metallicities of each galaxy, and qualitatively searched for azimuthal abundance variations. Here, we examine the 2D variation in abundances once the radial gradient is subtracted, Δ(O/H), in order to quantify the homogeneity of the metal distribution and to measure the mixing scale over which H ii region metallicities are correlated. We observe low (0.03–0.05 dex) scatter in Δ(O/H) globally in all galaxies, with significantly lower (0.02–0.03 dex) scatter on small (<600 pc) spatial scales. This is consistent with the measurement uncertainties, and implies the 2D metallicity distribution is highly correlated on scales of ≲600 pc. We compute the two-point correlation function for metals in the disc in order to quantify the scale lengths associated with the observed homogeneity. This mixing scale is observed to correlate better with the local gas velocity dispersion (of both cold and ionized gas) than with the star formation rate. Selecting onlymore »H ii regions with enhanced abundances relative to a linear radial gradient, we do not observe increased homogeneity on small scales. This suggests that the observed homogeneity is driven by the mixing introducing material from large scales rather than by pollution from recent and on-going star formation.« less
  8. Abstract We present PHANGS–ALMA, the first survey to map CO J = 2 → 1 line emission at ∼1″ ∼100 pc spatial resolution from a representative sample of 90 nearby ( d ≲ 20 Mpc) galaxies that lie on or near the z = 0 “main sequence” of star-forming galaxies. CO line emission traces the bulk distribution of molecular gas, which is the cold, star-forming phase of the interstellar medium. At the resolution achieved by PHANGS–ALMA, each beam reaches the size of a typical individual giant molecular cloud, so that these data can be used to measure the demographics, life cycle, and physical state of molecular clouds across the population of galaxies where the majority of stars form at z = 0. This paper describes the scientific motivation and background for the survey, sample selection, global properties of the targets, Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) observations, and characteristics of the delivered data and derived data products. As the ALMA sample serves as the parent sample for parallel surveys with MUSE on the Very Large Telescope, the Hubble Space Telescope, AstroSat, the Very Large Array, and other facilities, we include a detailed discussion of the sample selection. We detail the estimationmore »of galaxy mass, size, star formation rate, CO luminosity, and other properties, compare estimates using different systems and provide best-estimate integrated measurements for each target. We also report the design and execution of the ALMA observations, which combine a Cycle 5 Large Program, a series of smaller programs, and archival observations. Finally, we present the first 1″ resolution atlas of CO emission from nearby galaxies and describe the properties and contents of the first PHANGS–ALMA public data release.« less
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