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  1. 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 likelymore »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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  2. Abstract We measure the low- J CO line ratios R 21 ≡ CO (2–1)/CO (1–0), R 32 ≡ CO (3–2)/CO (2–1), and R 31 ≡CO (3–2)/CO (1–0) using whole-disk CO maps of nearby galaxies. We draw CO (2–1) from PHANGS-ALMA, HERACLES, and follow-up IRAM surveys; CO (1–0) from COMING and the Nobeyama CO Atlas of Nearby Spiral Galaxies; and CO (3–2) from the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope Nearby Galaxy Legacy Survey and Atacama Pathfinder Experiment Large APEX Sub-Millimetre Array mapping. All together, this yields 76, 47, and 29 maps of R 21 , R 32 , and R 31 at 20″ ∼ 1.3 kpc resolution, covering 43, 34, and 20 galaxies. Disk galaxies with high stellar mass, log ( M ⋆ / M ⊙ ) = 10.25 – 11 , and star formation rate (SFR) = 1–5 M ⊙ yr −1 , dominate the sample. We find galaxy-integrated mean values and a 16%–84% range of R 21 = 0.65 (0.50–0.83), R 32 = 0.50 (0.23–0.59), and R 31 = 0.31 (0.20–0.42). We identify weak trends relating galaxy-integrated line ratios to properties expected to correlate with excitation, including SFR/ M ⋆ and SFR/ L CO . Within galaxies, we measure centralmore »enhancements with respect to the galaxy-averaged value of ∼ 0.18 − 0.14 + 0.09 dex for R 21 , 0.27 − 0.15 + 0.13 dex for R 31 , and 0.08 − 0.09 + 0.11 dex for R 32 . All three line ratios anticorrelate with galactocentric radius and positively correlate with the local SFR surface density and specific SFR, and we provide approximate fits to these relations. The observed ratios can be reasonably reproduced by models with low temperature, moderate opacity, and moderate densities, in good agreement with expectations for the cold interstellar medium. Because the line ratios are expected to anticorrelate with the CO (1–0)-to-H 2 conversion factor, α CO 1 − 0 , these results have general implications for the interpretation of CO emission from galaxies.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available March 1, 2023
  3. 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
  4. The density structure of the interstellar medium determines where stars form and release energy, momentum and heavy elements, driving galaxy evolution1-4. Density variations are seeded and amplified by gas motion, but the exact nature of this motion is unknown across spatial scales and galactic environments5. Although dense star-forming gas probably emerges from a combination of instabilities6,7, convergent flows8 and turbulence9, establishing the precise origin is challenging because it requires gas motion to be quantified over many orders of magnitude in spatial scale. Here we measure10-12 the motion of molecular gas in the Milky Way and in nearby galaxy NGC 4321, assembling observations that span a spatial dynamic range 10-1-103 pc. We detect ubiquitous velocity fluctuations across all spatial scales and galactic environments. Statistical analysis of these fluctuations indicates how star-forming gas is assembled. We discover oscillatory gas flows with wavelengths ranging from 0.3-400 pc. These flows are coupled to regularly spaced density enhancements that probably form via gravitational instabilities13,14. We also identify stochastic and scale-free velocity and density fluctuations, consistent with the structure generated in turbulent flows9. Our results demonstrate that the structure of the interstellar medium cannot be considered in isolation. Instead, its formation and evolution are controlled bymore »nested, interdependent flows of matter covering many orders of magnitude in spatial scale.« less
  5. 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
  6. 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
  7. ABSTRACT It remains a major challenge to derive a theory of cloud-scale ($\lesssim100$ pc) star formation and feedback, describing how galaxies convert gas into stars as a function of the galactic environment. Progress has been hampered by a lack of robust empirical constraints on the giant molecular cloud (GMC) lifecycle. We address this problem by systematically applying a new statistical method for measuring the evolutionary timeline of the GMC lifecycle, star formation, and feedback to a sample of nine nearby disc galaxies, observed as part of the PHANGS-ALMA survey. We measure the spatially resolved (∼100 pc) CO-to-H α flux ratio and find a universal de-correlation between molecular gas and young stars on GMC scales, allowing us to quantify the underlying evolutionary timeline. GMC lifetimes are short, typically $10\!-\!30\,{\rm Myr}$, and exhibit environmental variation, between and within galaxies. At kpc-scale molecular gas surface densities $\Sigma _{\rm H_2}\ge 8\,\rm {M_\odot}\,{{\rm pc}}^{-2}$, the GMC lifetime correlates with time-scales for galactic dynamical processes, whereas at $\Sigma _{\rm H_2}\le 8\,\rm {M_\odot}\,{{\rm pc}}^{-2}$ GMCs decouple from galactic dynamics and live for an internal dynamical time-scale. After a long inert phase without massive star formation traced by H α (75–90 per cent of the cloud lifetime), GMCs disperse within just $1\!-\!5\,{\rm Myr}$ oncemore »massive stars emerge. The dispersal is most likely due to early stellar feedback, causing GMCs to achieve integrated star formation efficiencies of 4–10 per cent. These results show that galactic star formation is governed by cloud-scale, environmentally dependent, dynamical processes driving rapid evolutionary cycling. GMCs and H ii regions are the fundamental units undergoing these lifecycles, with mean separations of $100\!-\!300\,{{\rm pc}}$ in star-forming discs. Future work should characterize the multiscale physics and mass flows driving these lifecycles.« less