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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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    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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    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

    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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  6. 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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  7. null (Ed.)
    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 of 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. 
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  8. Abstract

    We explore the relationship between mid-infrared (mid-IR) and CO rotational line emission from massive star-forming galaxies, which is one of the tightest scalings in the local universe. We assemble a large set of unresolved and moderately (∼1 kpc) spatially resolved measurements of CO (1–0) and CO (2–1) intensity,ICO, and mid-IR intensity,IMIR, at 8, 12, 22, and 24μm. TheICOversusIMIRrelationship is reasonably described by a power law with slopes 0.7–1.2 and normalizationICO∼ 1 K km s−1atIMIR∼ 1 MJy sr−1. Both the slopes and intercepts vary systematically with choice of line and band. The comparison between the relations measured for CO (1–0) and CO (2–1) allow us to infer thatR21IMIR0.2, in good agreement with other work. The 8μm and 12μm bands, with strong polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) features, show steeper CO versus mid-IR slopes than the 22 and 24μm, consistent with PAH emission arising not just from CO-bright gas but also from atomic or CO-dark gas. The CO-to-mid-IR ratio correlates with global galaxy stellar mass (M) and anticorrelates with star formation rate/M. At ∼1 kpc resolution, the first four PHANGS–JWST targets show CO-to-mid-IR relationships that are quantitatively similar to our larger literature sample, including showing the steep CO-to-mid-IR slopes for the JWST PAH-tracing bands, although we caution that these initial data have a small sample size and span a limited range of intensities.

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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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  10. 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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