Journal Article

Flow-driven cloud formation and fragmentation: results from Eulerian and Lagrangian simulations

Fabian Heitsch, Thorsten Naab and Stefanie Walch

in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Published on behalf of The Royal Astronomical Society

Volume 415, issue 1, pages 271-278
Published in print July 2011 | ISSN: 0035-8711
Published online July 2011 | e-ISSN: 1365-2966 | DOI:
Flow-driven cloud formation and fragmentation: results from Eulerian and Lagrangian simulations

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The fragmentation of shocked flows in a thermally bistable medium provides a natural mechanism to form turbulent cold clouds as precursors to molecular clouds. Yet because of the large density and temperature differences and the range of dynamical scales involved, following this process with numerical simulations is challenging. We compare two-dimensional simulations of flow-driven cloud formation without self-gravity, using the Lagrangian smoothed particle hydrodynamics (SPH) code vine and the Eulerian grid code proteus. Results are qualitatively similar for both methods, yet the variable spatial resolution of the SPH method leads to smaller fragments and thinner filaments, rendering the overall morphologies different. Thermal and hydrodynamical instabilities lead to rapid cooling and fragmentation into cold clumps with temperatures below 300 K. For clumps more massive than 1 M pc−1, the clump mass function has an average slope of −0.8. The internal velocity dispersion of the clumps is nearly an order of magnitude smaller than their relative motion, rendering it subsonic with respect to the internal sound speed of the clumps but supersonic as seen by an external observer. For the SPH simulations most of the cold gas resides at temperatures below 100 K, while the grid-based models show an additional, substantial component between 100 and 300 K. Independent of the numerical method, our models confirm that converging flows of warm neutral gas fragment rapidly and form high-density, low-temperature clumps as possible seeds for star formation.

Keywords: hydrodynamics; instabilities; methods: numerical; stars: formation; ISM: clouds; ISM: kinematics and dynamics

Journal Article.  5460 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics

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