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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 GW170817 is the first binary neutron star (NS) merger detected in gravitational waves (GWs) and photons, and so far remains the only GW event of its class with a definitive electromagnetic counterpart. Radio emission from the structured jet associated with GW170817 has faded below the sensitivity achievable via deep radio observations with the most sensitive radio arrays currently in operation. Hence, we now have the opportunity to probe the radio re-brightening that some models predict, which should emerge at late times from the interaction of the dynamically stripped merger ejecta with the interstellar medium. Here we present the latest results from our deep radio observations of the GW170817 field with the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA), 4.5 yr after the merger. Our new data at 3 GHz do not show any compelling evidence for emission in excess to the tail of the jet afterglow (<3.3 μ Jy), confirming our previous results. We thus set new constraints on the dynamical ejecta afterglow models. These constraints favor single-speed ejecta with energies ≲10 50 erg (for an ejecta speed of β 0 = 0.5), or steeper energy–speed distributions of the kilonova ejecta. Our results also suggest larger values of the cold, nonrotating maximum NS mass in equal-mass scenarios. However, without a detection of the dynamical ejecta afterglow, obtaining precise constraints on the NS equation of state remains challenging. 
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  3. 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
  4. Abstract We present James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) imaging of NGC 7469 with the Near-Infrared Camera and the Mid-InfraRed Instrument. NGC 7469 is a nearby, z = 0.01627, luminous infrared galaxy that hosts both a Seyfert Type-1.5 nucleus and a circumnuclear starburst ring with a radius of ∼0.5 kpc. The new near-infrared (NIR) JWST imaging reveals 66 star-forming regions, 37 of which were not detected by Hubble Space Telescope (HST) observations. Twenty-eight of the 37 sources have very red NIR colors that indicate obscurations up to A v ∼ 7 and a contribution of at least 25% from hot dust emission to the 4.4 μ m band. Their NIR colors are also consistent with young (<5 Myr) stellar populations and more than half of them are coincident with the mid-infrared (MIR) emission peaks. These younger, dusty star-forming regions account for ∼6% and ∼17% of the total 1.5 and 4.4 μ m luminosity of the starburst ring, respectively. Thanks to JWST, we find a significant number of young dusty sources that were previously unseen due to dust extinction. The newly identified 28 young sources are a significant increase compared to the number of HST-detected young sources (4–5). This makes the total percentage of the young population rise from ∼15% to 48%. These results illustrate the effectiveness of JWST in identifying and characterizing previously hidden star formation in the densest star-forming environments around active galactic nuclei (AGN). 
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  5. Abstract We present James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) integral-field spectroscopy of the nearby merging, luminous infrared galaxy, NGC 7469. This galaxy hosts a Seyfert type-1.5 nucleus, a highly ionized outflow, and a bright, circumnuclear star-forming ring, making it an ideal target to study active galactic nucleus (AGN) feedback in the local universe. We take advantage of the high spatial/spectral resolution of JWST/MIRI to isolate the star-forming regions surrounding the central active nucleus and study the properties of the dust and warm molecular gas on ∼100 pc scales. The starburst ring exhibits prominent polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) emission, with grain sizes and ionization states varying by only ∼30%, and a total star formation rate of 10–30 M ⊙ yr −1 derived from fine structure and recombination emission lines. Using pure rotational lines of H 2 we detect 1.2 × 10 7 M ⊙ of warm molecular gas at a temperature higher than 200 K in the ring. All PAH bands get significantly weaker toward the central source, where larger and possibly more ionized grains dominate the emission, likely the result of the ionizing radiation and/or the fast wind emerging from the AGN. The small grains and warm molecular gas in the bright regions of the ring however display properties consistent with normal star-forming regions. These observations highlight the power of JWST to probe the inner regions of dusty, rapidly evolving galaxies for signatures of feedback and inform models that seek to explain the coevolution of supermassive black holes and their hosts. 
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  7. 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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  8. Abstract Radio free–free emission is considered to be one of the most reliable tracers of star formation in galaxies. However, as it constitutes the faintest part of the radio spectrum—being roughly an order of magnitude less luminous than radio synchrotron emission at the GHz frequencies typically targeted in radio surveys—the usage of free–free emission as a star formation rate tracer has mostly remained limited to the local universe. Here, we perform a multifrequency radio stacking analysis using deep Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array observations at 1.4, 3, 5, 10, and 34 GHz in the COSMOS and GOODS-North fields to probe free–free emission in typical galaxies at the peak of cosmic star formation. We find that z ∼ 0.5–3 star-forming galaxies exhibit radio emission at rest-frame frequencies of ∼65–90 GHz that is ∼1.5–2 times fainter than would be expected from a simple combination of free–free and synchrotron emission, as in the prototypical starburst galaxy M82. We interpret this as a deficit in high-frequency synchrotron emission, while the level of free–free emission is as expected from M82. We additionally provide the first constraints on the cosmic star formation history using free–free emission at 0.5 ≲ z ≲ 3, which are in good agreement with more established tracers at high redshift. In the future, deep multifrequency radio surveys will be crucial in order to accurately determine the shape of the radio spectrum of faint star-forming galaxies, and to further establish radio free–free emission as a tracer of high-redshift star formation. 
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  9. Abstract

    Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) play a critical role in the reprocessing of stellar radiation and balancing the heating and cooling processes in the interstellar medium but appear to be destroyed in Hiiregions. However, the mechanisms driving their destruction are still not completely understood. Using PHANGS–JWST and PHANGS–MUSE observations, we investigate how the PAH fraction changes in about 1500 Hiiregions across four nearby star-forming galaxies (NGC 628, NGC 1365, NGC 7496, and IC 5332). We find a strong anticorrelation between the PAH fraction and the ionization parameter (the ratio between the ionizing photon flux and the hydrogen density) of Hiiregions. This relation becomes steeper for more luminous Hiiregions. The metallicity of Hiiregions has only a minor impact on these results in our galaxy sample. We find that the PAH fraction decreases with the Hαequivalent width—a proxy for the age of the Hiiregions—although this trend is much weaker than the one identified using the ionization parameter. Our results are consistent with a scenario where hydrogen-ionizing UV radiation is the dominant source of PAH destruction in star-forming regions.

     
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  10. Abstract

    We measure empirical relationships between the local star formation rate (SFR) and properties of the star-forming molecular gas on 1.5 kpc scales across 80 nearby galaxies. These relationships, commonly referred to as “star formation laws,” aim at predicting the local SFR surface density from various combinations of molecular gas surface density, galactic orbital time, molecular cloud free fall time, and the interstellar medium dynamical equilibrium pressure. Leveraging a multiwavelength database built for the Physics at High Angular Resolution in Nearby Galaxies (PHANGS) survey, we measure these quantities consistently across all galaxies and quantify systematic uncertainties stemming from choices of SFR calibrations and the CO-to-H2conversion factors. The star formation laws we examine show 0.3–0.4 dex of intrinsic scatter, among which the molecular Kennicutt–Schmidt relation shows a ∼10% larger scatter than the other three. The slope of this relation rangesβ≈ 0.9–1.2, implying that the molecular gas depletion time remains roughly constant across the environments probed in our sample. The other relations have shallower slopes (β≈ 0.6–1.0), suggesting that the star formation efficiency per orbital time, the star formation efficiency per free fall time, and the pressure-to-SFR surface density ratio (i.e., the feedback yield) vary systematically with local molecular gas and SFR surface densities. Last but not least, the shapes of the star formation laws depend sensitively on methodological choices. Different choices of SFR calibrations can introduce systematic uncertainties of at least 10%–15% in the star formation law slopes and 0.15–0.25 dex in their normalization, while the CO-to-H2conversion factors can additionally produce uncertainties of 20%–25% for the slope and 0.10–0.20 dex for the normalization.

     
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