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The evolution of giant molecular filaments

Duarte Cabral, Ana ORCID: and Dobbs, C. L. 2017. The evolution of giant molecular filaments. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 470 (4) , pp. 4261-4273. 10.1093/mnras/stx1524

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In recent years, there has been a growing interest in studying giant molecular filaments (GMFs), which are extremely elongated (>100 pc in length) giant molecular clouds (GMCs). They are often seen as inter-arm features in external spiral galaxies, but have been tentatively associated with spiral arms when viewed in the Milky Way. In this paper, we study the time evolution of GMFs in a high-resolution section of a spiral galaxy simulation, and their link with spiral arm GMCs and star formation, over a period of 11 Myr. The GMFs generally survive the inter-arm passage, although they are subject to a number of processes (e.g. star formation, stellar feedback and differential rotation) that can break the giant filamentary structure into smaller sections. The GMFs are not gravitationally bound clouds as a whole, but are, to some extent, confined by external pressure. Once they reach the spiral arms, the GMFs tend to evolve into more substructured spiral arm GMCs, suggesting that GMFs may be precursors to arm GMCs. Here, they become incorporated into the more complex and almost continuum molecular medium that makes up the gaseous spiral arm. Instead of retaining a clear filamentary shape, their shapes are distorted both by their climbing up the spiral potential and their interaction with the gas within the spiral arm. The GMFs do tend to become aligned with the spiral arms just before they enter them (when they reach the minimum of the spiral potential), which could account for the observations of GMFs in the Milky Way.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Physics and Astronomy
Subjects: Q Science > QB Astronomy
Publisher: Oxford University Press
ISSN: 0035-8711
Funders: STFC
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 21 July 2017
Date of Acceptance: 15 June 2017
Last Modified: 03 May 2023 01:07

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