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  1. ABSTRACT

    The evolutionary sequence for high-mass star formation starts with massive starless clumps that go on to form protostellar, young stellar objects and then compact H ii regions. While there are many examples of the three later stages, the very early stages have proved to be elusive. We follow-up a sample of 110 mid-infrared dark clumps selected from the ATLASGAL catalogue with the IRAM telescope in an effort to identify a robust sample of massive starless clumps. We have used the HCO+ and HNC (1-0) transitions to identify clumps associated with infall motion and the SiO (2-1) transition to identity outflow candidates. We have found blue asymmetric line profile in 65 per cent of the sample, and have measured the infall velocities and mass infall rates (0.6–36 × 10−3 M⊙ yr−1) for 33 of these clumps. We find a trend for the mass infall rate decreasing with an increase of bolometric luminosity to clump mass, i.e. star formation within the clumps evolves. Using the SiO 2-1 line, we have identified good outflow candidates. Combining the infall and outflow tracers reveals that 67 per cent of quiescent clumps are already undergoing gravitational collapse or are associated with star formation; these clumps provide us with our best opportunity to determine the initial conditions and study the earliest stages of massive star formation. Finally, we provide an overview of a systematic high-resolution ALMA study of quiescent clumps selected that allows us to develop a detailed understanding of earliest stages and their subsequent evolution.

     
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  2. ABSTRACT

    Galactic plane radio surveys play a key role in improving our understanding of a wide range of astrophysical phenomena. Performing such a survey using the latest interferometric telescopes produces large data rates necessitating a shift towards fully or quasi-real-time data analysis with data being stored for only the time required to process them. We present here the overview and set-up for the 3000-h Max-Planck-Institut für Radioastronomie (MPIfR)–MeerKAT Galactic Plane Survey (MMGPS). The survey is unique by operating in a commensal mode, addressing key science objectives of the survey including the discovery of new pulsars and transients and studies of Galactic magnetism, the interstellar medium and star formation rates. We explain the strategy coupled with the necessary hardware and software infrastructure needed for data reduction in the imaging, spectral, and time domains. We have so far discovered 78 new pulsars including 17 confirmed binary systems of which two are potential double neutron star systems. We have also developed an imaging pipeline sensitive to the order of a few tens of micro-Jansky ($\mu{\rm Jy}$) with a spatial resolution of a few arcseconds. Further science operations with an in-house built S-band receiver operating between 1.7 and 3.5 GHz are about to commence. Early spectral line commissioning observations conducted at S-band, targeting transitions of the key molecular gas tracer CH at 3.3 GHz already illustrate the spectroscopic capabilities of this instrument. These results lay a strong foundation for future surveys with telescopes like the Square Kilometre Array (SKA).

     
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  3. Context. The electron density ( n e − ) plays an important role in setting the chemistry and physics of the interstellar medium. However, measurements of n e − in neutral clouds have been directly obtained only toward a few lines of sight or they rely on indirect determinations. Aims. We use carbon radio recombination lines and the far-infrared lines of C + to directly measure n e − and the gas temperature in the envelope of the integral shaped filament (ISF) in the Orion A molecular cloud. Methods. We observed the C102 α (6109.901 MHz) and C109 α (5011.420 MHz) carbon radio recombination lines (CRRLs) using the Effelsberg 100 m telescope at ≈2′ resolution toward five positions in OMC-2 and OMC-3. Since the CRRLs have similar line properties, we averaged them to increase the signal-to-noise ratio of the spectra. We compared the intensities of the averaged CRRLs, and the 158 μm-[CII] and [ 13 CII] lines to the predictions of a homogeneous model for the C + /C interface in the envelope of a molecular cloud and from this comparison we determined the electron density, temperature and C + column density of the gas. Results. We detect the CRRLs toward four positions, where their velocity ( v LSR  ≈ 11 km s −1 ) and widths ( σ v  ≈ 1 km s −1 ) confirms that they trace the envelope of the ISF. Toward two positions we detect the CRRLs, and the 158 μm-[CII] and [ 13 CII] lines with a signal-to-noise ratio ≥5, and we find n e −  = 0.65 ± 0.12 cm −3 and 0.95 ± 0.02 cm −3 , which corresponds to a gas density n H  ≈ 5 × 10 3 cm −3 and a thermal pressure of p th  ≈ 4 × 10 5 K cm −3 . We also constrained the ionization fraction in the denser portions of the molecular cloud using the HCN(1–0) and C 2 H(1–0) lines to x (e − ) ≤ 3 × 10 −6 . Conclusions. The derived electron densities and ionization fraction imply that x (e − ) drops by a factor ≥100 between the C + layer and the regions probed by HCN(1–0). This suggests that electron collisional excitation does not play a significant role in setting the excitation of HCN(1–0) toward the region studied, as it is responsible for only ≈10% of the observed emission. 
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  4. ABSTRACT ATLASGAL is an 870-µm dust survey of 420 deg2 the inner Galactic plane and has been used to identify ∼10 000 dense molecular clumps. Dedicated follow-up observations and complementary surveys are used to characterize the physical properties of these clumps, map their Galactic distribution, and investigate the evolutionary sequence for high-mass star formation. The analysis of the ATLASGAL data is ongoing: We present an up-to-date version of the catalogue. We have classified 5007 clumps into four evolutionary stages (quiescent, protostellar, young stellar objects and H ii regions) and find similar numbers of clumps in each stage, suggesting a similar lifetime. The luminosity-to-mass (Lbol/Mfwhm) ratio curve shows a smooth distribution with no significant kinks or discontinuities when compared to the mean values for evolutionary stages indicating that the star formation process is continuous and that the observational stages do not represent fundamentally different stages or changes in the physical mechanisms involved. We compare the evolutionary sample with other star formation tracers (methanol and water masers, extended green objects and molecular outflows) and find that the association rates with these increases as a function of evolutionary stage, confirming that our classification is reliable. This also reveals a high association rate between quiescent sources and molecular outflows, revealing that outflows are the earliest indication that star formation has begun and that star formation is already ongoing in many of the clumps that are dark even at 70 µm. 
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  5. The morphology of the Milky Way is still a matter of debate. In order to shed light on uncertainties surrounding the structure of the Galaxy, in this paper, we study the imprint of spiral arms on the distribution and properties of its molecular gas. To do so, we take full advantage of the SEDIGISM (Structure, Excitation, and Dynamics of the Inner Galactic Interstellar Medium) survey that observed a large area of the inner Galaxy in the 13 CO (2–1) line at an angular resolution of 28′′. We analyse the influences of the spiral arms by considering the features of the molecular gas emission as a whole across the longitude–velocity map built from the full survey. Additionally, we examine the properties of the molecular clouds in the spiral arms compared to the properties of their counterparts in the inter-arm regions. Through flux and luminosity probability distribution functions, we find that the molecular gas emission associated with the spiral arms does not differ significantly from the emission between the arms. On average, spiral arms show masses per unit length of ~10 5 –10 6 M ⊙ kpc −1 . This is similar to values inferred from data sets in which emission distributions were segmented into molecular clouds. By examining the cloud distribution across the Galactic plane, we infer that the molecular mass in the spiral arms is a factor of 1.5 higher than that of the inter-arm medium, similar to what is found for other spiral galaxies in the local Universe. We observe that only the distributions of cloud mass surface densities and aspect ratio in the spiral arms show significant differences compared to those of the inter-arm medium; other observed differences appear instead to be driven by a distance bias. By comparing our results with simulations and observations of nearby galaxies, we conclude that the measured quantities would classify the Milky Way as a flocculent spiral galaxy, rather than as a grand-design one. 
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  6. Context.Recently, sensitive wide-bandwidth receivers in the millimetre regime have enabled us to combine large spatial and spectral coverage for observations of molecular clouds. The resulting capability to map the distributions of lines from many molecules simultaneously yields unbiased coverage of the various environments within star-forming regions.

    Aims.Our aim is to identify the dominant molecular cooling lines and characteristic emission features in the 1.3 mm window of distinct regions in the northern part of the Orion A molecular cloud. By defining and analysing template regions, we also intend to help with the interpretation of observations from more distant sources which cannot be easily spatially resolved.

    Methods.We analyse an imaging line survey covering the area of OMC-1 to OMC-3 from 200.2 to 281.8 GHz obtained with the PI230 receiver at the APEX telescope. Masks are used to define regions with distinct properties (e.g. column density or temperature ranges) from which we obtain averaged spectra. Lines of 29 molecular species (55 isotopologues) are fitted for each region to obtain the respective total intensity.

    Results.We find that strong sources like Orion KL have a clear impact on the emission on larger scales. Although not spatially extended, their line emission contributes substantially to spectra averaged over large regions. Conversely, the emission signatures of dense, cold regions like OMC-2 and OMC-3 (e.g. enhanced N2H+emission and low HCN/HNC ratio) seem to be difficult to pick up on larger scales, where they are eclipsed by signatures of stronger sources. In all regions, HCO+appears to contribute between 3 and 6% to the total intensity, the most stable value for all bright species. N2H+shows the strongest correlation with column density, but not with typical high-density tracers like HCN, HCO+, H2CO, or HNC. Common line ratios associated with UV illumination, CN/HNC and CN/HCO+, show ambiguous results on larger scales, suggesting that the identification of UV illuminated material may be more challenging. The HCN/HNC ratio may be related to temperature over varying scales.

     
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  7. Context. The Central Molecular Zone (CMZ), a ∼200 pc sized region around the Galactic Centre, is peculiar in that it shows a star formation rate (SFR) that is suppressed with respect to the available dense gas. To study the SFR in the CMZ, young stellar objects (YSOs) can be investigated. Here we present radio observations of 334 2.2 μm infrared sources that have been identified as YSO candidates. Aims: Our goal is to investigate the presence of centimetre wavelength radio continuum counterparts to this sample of YSO candidates which we use to constrain the current SFR in the CMZ. Methods: As part of the GLObal view on STAR formation (GLOSTAR) survey, D-configuration Very Large Array data were obtained for the Galactic Centre, covering −2° < l < 2° and −1° < b < 1° with a frequency coverage of 4-8 GHz. We matched YSOs with radio continuum sources based on selection criteria and classified these radio sources as potential H II regions and determined their physical properties. Results: Of the 334 YSO candidates, we found 35 with radio continuum counterparts. We find that 94 YSOs are associated with dense dust condensations identified in the 870 μm ATLASGAL survey, of which 14 have a GLOSTAR counterpart. Of the 35 YSOs with radio counterparts, 11 are confirmed as H II regions based on their spectral indices and the literature. We estimated their Lyman continuum photon flux in order to estimate the mass of the ionising star. Combining these with known sources, the present-day SFR in the CMZ is calculated to be ∼0.068 M⊙ yr−1, which is ∼6.8% of the Galactic SFR. Candidate YSOs that lack radio counterparts may not have yet evolved to the stage of exhibiting an H II region or, conversely, are older and have dispersed their natal clouds. Since many lack dust emission, the latter is more likely. Our SFR estimate in the CMZ is in agreement with previous estimates in the literature. 
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  8. We present the first data release of the ALMA-IMF Large Program, which covers the 12m-array continuum calibration and imaging. The ALMA-IMF Large Program is a survey of fifteen dense molecular cloud regions spanning a range of evolutionary stages that aims to measure the core mass function. We describe the data acquisition and calibration done by the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) observatory and the subsequent calibration and imaging we performed. The image products are combinations of multiple 12 m array configurations created from a selection of the observed bandwidth using multi-term, multi-frequency synthesis imaging and deconvolution. The data products are self-calibrated and exhibit substantial noise improvements over the images produced from the delivered data. We compare different choices of continuum selection, calibration parameters, and image weighting parameters, demonstrating the utility and necessity of our additional processing work. Two variants of continuum selection are used and will be distributed: the “best-sensitivity” ( bsens ) data, which include the full bandwidth, including bright emission lines that contaminate the continuum, and “cleanest” ( cleanest ), which select portions of the spectrum that are unaffected by line emission. We present a preliminary analysis of the spectral indices of the continuum data, showing that the ALMA products are able to clearly distinguish free-free emission from dust emission, and that in some cases we are able to identify optically thick emission sources. The data products are made public with this release. 
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  9. Aims. Thanks to the high angular resolution, sensitivity, image fidelity, and frequency coverage of ALMA, we aim to improve our understanding of star formation. One of the breakthroughs expected from ALMA, which is the basis of our Cycle 5 ALMA-IMF Large Program, is the question of the origin of the initial mass function (IMF) of stars. Here we present the ALMA-IMF protocluster selection, first results, and scientific prospects. Methods. ALMA-IMF imaged a total noncontiguous area of ~53 pc 2 , covering extreme, nearby protoclusters of the Milky Way. We observed 15 massive (2.5 −33 × 10 3 M ⊙ ), nearby (2−5.5 kpc) protoclusters that were selected to span relevant early protocluster evolutionary stages. Our 1.3 and 3 mm observations provide continuum images that are homogeneously sensitive to point-like cores with masses of ~0.2 M ⊙ and ~0.6 M ⊙ , respectively, with a matched spatial resolution of ~2000 au across the sample at both wavelengths. Moreover, with the broad spectral coverage provided by ALMA, we detect lines that probe the ionized and molecular gas, as well as complex molecules. Taken together, these data probe the protocluster structure, kinematics, chemistry, and feedback over scales from clouds to filaments to cores. Results. We classify ALMA-IMF protoclusters as Young (six protoclusters), Intermediate (five protoclusters), or Evolved (four proto-clusters) based on the amount of dense gas in the cloud that has potentially been impacted by H  II region(s). The ALMA-IMF catalog contains ~700 cores that span a mass range of ~0.15 M ⊙ to ~250 M ⊙ at a typical size of ~2100 au. We show that this core sample has no significant distance bias and can be used to build core mass functions (CMFs) at similar physical scales. Significant gas motions, which we highlight here in the G353.41 region, are traced down to core scales and can be used to look for inflowing gas streamers and to quantify the impact of the possible associated core mass growth on the shape of the CMF with time. Our first analysis does not reveal any significant evolution of the matter concentration from clouds to cores (i.e., from 1 pc to 0.01 pc scales) or from the youngest to more evolved protoclusters, indicating that cloud dynamical evolution and stellar feedback have for the moment only had a slight effect on the structure of high-density gas in our sample. Furthermore, the first-look analysis of the line richness toward bright cores indicates that the survey encompasses several tens of hot cores, of which we highlight the most massive in the G351.77 cloud. Their homogeneous characterization can be used to constrain the emerging molecular complexity in protostars of high to intermediate masses. Conclusions. The ALMA-IMF Large Program is uniquely designed to transform our understanding of the IMF origin, taking the effects of cloud characteristics and evolution into account. It will provide the community with an unprecedented database with a high legacy value for protocluster clouds, filaments, cores, hot cores, outflows, inflows, and stellar clusters studies. 
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  10. ABSTRACT The current generation of (sub)mm-telescopes has allowed molecular line emission to become a major tool for studying the physical, kinematic, and chemical properties of extragalactic systems, yet exploiting these observations requires a detailed understanding of where emission lines originate within the Milky Way. In this paper, we present 60 arcsec (∼3 pc) resolution observations of many 3 mm band molecular lines across a large map of the W49 massive star-forming region (∼100 pc × 100 pc at 11 kpc), which were taken as part of the ‘LEGO’ IRAM-30m large project. We find that the spatial extent or brightness of the molecular line transitions are not well correlated with their critical densities, highlighting abundance and optical depth must be considered when estimating line emission characteristics. We explore how the total emission and emission efficiency (i.e. line brightness per H2 column density) of the line emission vary as a function of molecular hydrogen column density and dust temperature. We find that there is not a single region of this parameter space responsible for the brightest and most efficiently emitting gas for all species. For example, we find that the HCN transition shows high emission efficiency at high column density (1022 cm−2) and moderate temperatures (35 K), whilst e.g. N2H+ emits most efficiently towards lower temperatures (1022 cm−2; <20 K). We determine $X_{\mathrm{CO} (1-0)} \sim 0.3 \times 10^{20} \, \mathrm{cm^{-2}\, (K\, km\, s^{-1})^{-1}}$, and $\alpha _{\mathrm{HCN} (1-0)} \sim 30\, \mathrm{M_\odot \, (K\, km\, s^{-1}\, pc^2)^{-1}}$, which both differ significantly from the commonly adopted values. In all, these results suggest caution should be taken when interpreting molecular line emission. 
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