Journal Article

When is star formation episodic? A delay differential equation ‘negative feedback’ model

Alice C. Quillen and Joss Bland-Hawthorn

in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Published on behalf of The Royal Astronomical Society

Volume 386, issue 4, pages 2227-2234
Published in print June 2008 | ISSN: 0035-8711
Published online April 2008 | e-ISSN: 1365-2966 | DOI:
When is star formation episodic? A delay differential equation ‘negative feedback’ model

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We introduce a differential equation for star formation in galaxies that incorporates negative feedback with a delay. When the feedback is instantaneous, solutions approach a self-limiting equilibrium state. When there is a delay, even though the feedback is negative, the solutions can exhibit cyclic and episodic solutions. We find that periodic or episodic star formation only occurs when two conditions are satisfied. First the delay time-scale must exceed a cloud consumption time-scale. Secondly, the feedback must be strong. This statement is quantitatively equivalent to requiring that the time-scale to approach equilibrium be greater than approximately twice the cloud consumption time-scale. The period of oscillations predicted is approximately four times the delay time-scale. The amplitude of the oscillations increases with both feedback strength and delay time.

We discuss applications of the delay differential equation (DDE) model to star formation in galaxies using the cloud density as a variable. The DDE model is most applicable to systems that recycle gas and only slowly remove gas from the system. We propose likely delay mechanisms based on the requirement that the delay time is related to the observationally estimated time between episodic events. The proposed delay time-scale accounting for episodic star formation in galaxy centres on periods similar to P∼ 10 Myr, irregular galaxies with P∼ 100 Myr, and the Milky Way disc with P∼ 2 Gyr, could be that for exciting turbulence following creation of massive stars, that for gas pushed into the halo to return and interact with the disc and that for spiral density wave evolution, respectively.

Keywords: ISM: evolution; galaxies: ISM

Journal Article.  7044 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics

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