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Understanding the physics of the X-factor

  • M. Röllig, R. Simon, V. Ossenkopf, J. Stutzki, S.C.O. Glover (a1) and M.-M. Mac Low (a2)...


We study the relationship between the H2 and CO abundances in simulated molecular clouds using a fully dynamical model of magnetized turbulence coupled to a detailed chemical network. We find that the CO-to-H2 conversion factor for a given molecular cloud, the so-called X-factor, is determined primarily by the mean extinction of the cloud, rather than by its metallicity. Our results explain the discrepancy observed in low metallicity systems between cloud masses derived from CO observations and other techniques such as infrared emission, and predict that CO-bright clouds in low metallicity systems should be systematically larger and/or denser than Milky Way clouds.



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