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What can simulated molecular clouds tell us about real molecular clouds?

Duarte Cabral, Ana ORCID: and Dobbs, C. L. 2016. What can simulated molecular clouds tell us about real molecular clouds? Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 458 (4) , pp. 3667-3683. 10.1093/mnras/stw469

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We study the properties of giant molecular clouds (GMCs) from a smoothed particle hydrodynamics simulation of a portion of a spiral galaxy, modelled at high resolution, with robust representations of the physics of the interstellar medium. We examine the global molecular gas content of clouds, and investigate the effect of using CO or H2 densities to define the GMCs. We find that CO can reliably trace the high-density H2 gas, but misses less dense H2 clouds. We also investigate the effect of using 3D CO densities versus CO emission with an observer’s perspective, and find that CO-emission clouds trace well the peaks of the actual GMCs in 3D, but can miss the lower density molecular gas between density peaks which is often CO-dark. Thus, the CO emission typically traces smaller clouds within larger GMC complexes. We also investigate the effect of the galactic environment (in particular the presence of spiral arms), on the distribution of GMC properties, and we find that the mean properties are similar between arm and inter-arm clouds, but the tails of some distributions are indicative of intrinsic differences in the environment. We find highly filamentary clouds (similar to the giant molecular filaments of our Galaxy) exclusively in the inter-arm region, formed by galactic shear. We also find that the most massive GMC complexes are located in the arm, and that as a consequence of more frequent cloud interactions/mergers in the arm, arm clouds are more sub-structured and have higher velocity dispersions than inter-arm clouds.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Physics and Astronomy
Publisher: Oxford University Press (OUP): Policy P - Oxford Open Option A
ISSN: 0035-8711
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 14 May 2019
Date of Acceptance: 25 February 2016
Last Modified: 05 May 2023 23:20

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