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Understanding starbursts through giant molecular clouds in high density environments

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 August 2006

Erik W. Rosolowsky
Affiliation:
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics 60 Garden St., MS-66, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA email: erosolow[snail]@cfa.harvard.edu
Corresponding
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Abstract

Starburst galaxies are characterized by uncommonly high star formation efficiencies, but it remains unclear what physical conditions in the molecular gas produce this high efficiency. Invariably, high star formation efficiency is associated with high column densities of molecular material (e.g. the Kennicutt-Schmidt law), but what are the conditions in the molecular clouds in starburst galaxies? Direct observations of starburst are difficult or impossible with current instruments, so I present the properties of GMCs in the Local Group as a starting case and then extend the analysis of GMC properties to nearby systems with surface densities of gas intermediate between the Local Group and starbursts. Rather than being constant, molecular cloud properties follow a continuum with significant variation across the Local Group and the intermediate surface density systems. Concomitant with these variations in the macroscopic properties are significant changes in the internal pressure and densities of molecular clouds, which implies significant variability in the initial conditions of the star formation process.

Type
Contributed Papers
Copyright
Copyright © International Astronomical Union 2007

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