Dense Gas, Massive Stars, and Ionising Radiation: Simulating Stellar Feedback in Spiral-Arm Molecular Clouds
Date: 26 July 2021
University of Exeter
PhD in Physics
Star formation (SF) has been continuous since the Universe was 200 million years old. It occurs in the interstellar medium (ISM) – the gas and dust between stars within galaxies. The majority of SF occurs inside giant molecular clouds (GMCs) – the most massive agglomerations of dense gas within the ISM – typically the stars form in ...
Star formation (SF) has been continuous since the Universe was 200 million years old. It occurs in the interstellar medium (ISM) – the gas and dust between stars within galaxies. The majority of SF occurs inside giant molecular clouds (GMCs) – the most massive agglomerations of dense gas within the ISM – typically the stars form in clusters. Initially the SF is governed solely by a GMC’s morphology, but, as stars form, the energy and momentum they inject into their surroundings – stellar feedback – affects ongoing star formation within the GMC. The effects of this feedback not only help to break up the cloud, but affect the wider ISM, and hence influence both neighbouring GMC evolution and future GMC formation. This thesis explores how two forms of stellar feedback – photoionisation and supernova (SN) – affect Milky Way-like spiral arm regions through the use of nu- merical hydrodynamic simulations. The numerical initial conditions are created by extracting a 500 pc2 region from simulations of whole galaxies. This means the simulations begin with a ‘realistic’ arrangement of neighbouring GMCs. The ISM is affected by the warm (104 K) HII regions that form and expand around massive photoionising stars and the hot (106 K) SNe ejecta that are emitted from the same stars at the end of their lifetimes. In these simulations photoionisation breaks GMCs and the denser clumps in their substructure up into a larger number of objects while, at the same time, increasing the total mass of dense ISM. This results in more rapid, and partially displaced, SF when compared with simulations without stellar feedback. The main cause of these effects is the compression of dense, but non-star forming, gas from multiple sides by HII regions. SNe have little effect on SF on spiral arm scales. However, SNe are able to heat large regions of the ISM to high temperatures, but only if the gas has already been exposed to photoionising feedback.
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