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On column density thresholds and the star formation rate

Clark, Paul ORCID: and Glover, Simon C. O. 2014. On column density thresholds and the star formation rate. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 444 (3) , pp. 2396-2414. 10.1093/mnras/stu1589

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We present the results of a numerical study designed to address the question of whether there is a column density threshold for star formation within molecular clouds. We have simulated a large number of different clouds, with volume and column densities spanning a wide range of different values, using a state-of-the-art model for the coupled chemical, thermal and dynamical evolution of the gas. We show that star formation is only possible in regions where the mean (area-averaged) column density exceeds 1021 cm−2. Within the clouds, we also show that there is a good correlation between the mass of gas above a K-band extinction AK = 0.8 and the star formation rate (SFR), in agreement with recent observational work. Previously, this relationship has been explained in terms of a correlation between the SFR and the mass in dense gas. However, we find that this correlation is weaker and more time dependent than that between the SFR and the column density. In support of previous studies, we argue that dust shielding is the key process: the true correlation is one between the SFR and the mass in cold, well-shielded gas, and the latter correlates better with the column density than the volume density.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Physics and Astronomy
Subjects: Q Science > QB Astronomy
Publisher: Oxford University Press
ISSN: 0035-8711
Date of Acceptance: 5 August 2014
Last Modified: 01 Nov 2022 09:55

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