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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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    Galactic bars can drive cold gas inflows towards the centres of galaxies. The gas transport happens primarily through the so-called bar dust lanes, which connect the galactic disc at kpc scales to the nuclear rings at hundreds of pc scales much like two gigantic galactic rivers. Once in the ring, the gas can fuel star formation activity, galactic outflows, and central supermassive black holes. Measuring the mass inflow rates is therefore important to understanding the mass/energy budget and evolution of galactic nuclei. In this work, we use CO datacubes from the PHANGS-ALMA survey and a simple geometrical method to measure the bar-driven mass inflow rate on to the nuclear ring of the barred galaxy NGC 1097. The method assumes that the gas velocity in the bar lanes is parallel to the lanes in the frame co-rotating with the bar, and allows one to derive the inflow rates from sufficiently sensitive and resolved position–position–velocity diagrams if the bar pattern speed and galaxy orientations are known. We find an inflow rate of $\dot{M}=(3.0 \pm 2.1)\, \rm M_\odot \, yr^{-1}$ averaged over a time span of 40 Myr, which varies by a factor of a few over time-scales of ∼10 Myr. Most of the inflow appears to be consumed by star formation in the ring, which is currently occurring at a star formation rate (SFR) of $\simeq\!1.8\!-\!2 \, \rm M_\odot \, yr^{-1}$, suggesting that the inflow is causally controlling the SFR in the ring as a function of time.

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  3. 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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  4. Abstract

    Large-scale bars can fuel galaxy centers with molecular gas, often leading to the development of dense ringlike structures where intense star formation occurs, forming a very different environment compared to galactic disks. We pair ∼0.″3 (30 pc) resolution new JWST/MIRI imaging with archival ALMA CO(2–1) mapping of the central ∼5 kpc of the nearby barred spiral galaxy NGC 1365 to investigate the physical mechanisms responsible for this extreme star formation. The molecular gas morphology is resolved into two well-known bright bar lanes that surround a smooth dynamically cold gas disk (Rgal∼ 475 pc) reminiscent of non-star-forming disks in early-type galaxies and likely fed by gas inflow triggered by stellar feedback in the lanes. The lanes host a large number of JWST-identified massive young star clusters. We find some evidence for temporal star formation evolution along the ring. The complex kinematics in the gas lanes reveal strong streaming motions and may be consistent with convergence of gas streamlines expected there. Indeed, the extreme line widths are found to be the result of inter-“cloud” motion between gas peaks;ScousePydecomposition reveals multiple components with line widths of 〈σCO,scouse〉 ≈ 19 km s−1and surface densities ofΣH2,scouse800Mpc2, similar to the properties observed throughout the rest of the central molecular gas structure. Tailored hydrodynamical simulations exhibit many of the observed properties and imply that the observed structures are transient and highly time-variable. From our study of NGC 1365, we conclude that it is predominantly the high gas inflow triggered by the bar that is setting the star formation in its CMZ.

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  5. Abstract

    We present a high-resolution view of bubbles within the Phantom Galaxy (NGC 628), a nearby (∼10 Mpc), star-forming (∼2Myr−1), face-on (i∼ 9°) grand-design spiral galaxy. With new data obtained as part of the Physics at High Angular resolution in Nearby GalaxieS (PHANGS)-JWST treasury program, we perform a detailed case study of two regions of interest, one of which contains the largest and most prominent bubble in the galaxy (the Phantom Void, over 1 kpc in diameter), and the other being a smaller region that may be the precursor to such a large bubble (the Precursor Phantom Void). When comparing to matched-resolution Hαobservations from the Hubble Space Telescope, we see that the ionized gas is brightest in the shells of both bubbles, and is coincident with the youngest (∼1 Myr) and most massive (∼105M) stellar associations. We also find an older generation (∼20 Myr) of stellar associations is present within the bubble of the Phantom Void. From our kinematic analysis of the HI, H2(CO), and Hiigas across the Phantom Void, we infer a high expansion speed of around 15 to 50 km s−1. The large size and high expansion speed of the Phantom Void suggest that the driving mechanism is sustained stellar feedback due to multiple mechanisms, where early feedback first cleared a bubble (as we observe now in the Precursor Phantom Void), and since then supernovae have been exploding within the cavity and have accelerated the shell. Finally, comparison to simulations shows a striking resemblance to our JWST observations, and suggests that such large-scale, stellar-feedback-driven bubbles should be common within other galaxies.

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  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 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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