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    The processes of star formation and feedback, regulating the cycle of matter between gas and stars on the scales of giant molecular clouds (GMCs; ∼100 pc), play a major role in governing galaxy evolution. Measuring the time-scales of GMC evolution is important to identify and characterize the specific physical mechanisms that drive this transition. By applying a robust statistical method to high-resolution CO and narrow-band H α imaging from the PHANGS survey, we systematically measure the evolutionary timeline from molecular clouds to exposed young stellar regions on GMC scales, across the discs of an unprecedented sample of 54 star-forming main-sequence galaxies (excluding their unresolved centres). We find that clouds live for about 1−3 GMC turbulence crossing times (5−30 Myr) and are efficiently dispersed by stellar feedback within 1−5 Myr once the star-forming region becomes partially exposed, resulting in integrated star formation efficiencies of 1−8 per cent. These ranges reflect physical galaxy-to-galaxy variation. In order to evaluate whether galactic environment influences GMC evolution, we correlate our measurements with average properties of the GMCs and their local galactic environment. We find several strong correlations that can be physically understood, revealing a quantitative link between galactic-scale environmental properties and the small-scale GMC evolution. Notably, the measured CO-visible cloud lifetimes become shorter with decreasing galaxy mass, mostly due to the increasing presence of CO-dark molecular gas in such environment. Our results represent a first step towards a comprehensive picture of cloud assembly and dispersal, which requires further extension and refinement with tracers of the atomic gas, dust, and deeply embedded stars.

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  2. 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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  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 and 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. 
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  4. 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 $1\!-\!5\,{\rm Myr}$ once 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. 
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  5. 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 estimation 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. 
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