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Molecular Clouds and Star Formation at Large R

  • J. Brand (a1) and J.G.A. Wouterloot (a2)

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In the outer Galaxy (defined here as those parts of our system with galactocentric radii R>R0) the HI gas density (Wouterloot et al., 1990), the cosmic ray flux (Bloemen et al, 1984) and the metallicity (Shaver et al., 1983) are lower than in the inner parts. Also, the effect of a spiral density wave is much reduced in the outer parts of the Galaxy due to corotation. This changing environment might be expected to have its influence on the formation of molecular clouds and on star formation within them. In fact, some differences with respect to the inner Galaxy have been found: the ratio of HI to H2 surface density is increasing from about 5 near the Sun to about 100 at R≈20kpc (Wouterloot et al., 1990). Because of the “flaring” of the gaseous disk, the scale height of both the atomic and the molecular gas increases by about a factor of 3 between R0 and 2R0 (Wouterloot et al., 1990), so the mean volume density of both constituents decreases even more rapidly than their surface densities. The size of HII regions decreases significantly with increasing galactocentric distance (Fich and Blitz, 1984), probably due to the fact that outer Galaxy clouds are less massive (see section 3.3), and therefore form fewer O-type stars than their inner Galaxy counter parts. There are indications that the cloud kinetic temperature is lower by a few degrees (Mead and Kutner, 1988), although it is not clear to what extent this is caused by beam dilution.

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References

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Bloemen, J.B.G.M., et al. (1984) Astron. Astroph. 135, 12
Brand, J. (1986) Ph.D. Thesis, University of Leiden
Elmegreen, B.G. (1990) in The Evolution of the Interstellar Medium , (Blitz, , ed.), in press
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Wouterloot, J.G.A., Henkel, C., Walmsley, C.M. (1989) Astron. Astroph. 215, 131
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Wouterloot, J.G.A., Walmsley, C.M., Henkel, C. (1988b) Astron. Astroph. 203, 367

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