Journal Article

GMC formation by agglomeration and self gravity

C. L. Dobbs

in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Published on behalf of The Royal Astronomical Society

Volume 391, issue 2, pages 844-858
Published in print December 2008 | ISSN: 0035-8711
Published online November 2008 | e-ISSN: 1365-2966 | DOI:
GMC formation by agglomeration and self gravity

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We investigate the formation of giant molecular clouds (GMCs) in spiral galaxies through both agglomeration of clouds in the spiral arms, and self gravity. The simulations presented include two-fluid models, which contain both cold and warm gas, although there is no heating or cooling between them. We find agglomeration is predominant when both the warm and cold components of the interstellar medium are effectively stable to gravitational instabilities. In this case, the spacing (and consequently mass) of clouds and spurs along the spiral arms is determined by the orbits of the gas particles and correlates with their epicyclic radii (or equivalently spiral shock strength). Notably GMCs formed primarily by agglomeration tend to be unbound associations of many smaller clouds, which disperse upon leaving the spiral arms. These GMCs are likely to be more massive in galaxies with stronger spiral shocks or higher surface densities. GMCs formed by agglomeration are also found to exhibit both prograde and retrograde rotation, a consequence of the clumpiness of the gas. At higher surface densities, self gravity becomes more important in arranging both the warm and cold gas into clouds and spurs, and determining the properties of the most massive GMCs. These massive GMCs can be distinguished by their higher angular momentum, exhibit prograde rotation and are more bound. For a 20 M pc−2 disc, the spacing between the GMCs fits both the agglomeration and self gravity scenarios, as the maximum unstable wavelength of gravitational perturbations in the warm gas is similar to the spacing found when GMCs form solely by agglomeration.

Keywords: MHD; ISM: clouds; galaxy: kinematics and dynamics; galaxies: spiral; galaxies: structure

Journal Article.  11350 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics

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