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Paper: Star Formation in The HI Nearby Galaxy Survey
Volume: 387, Massive Star Formation: Observations Confront Theory
Page: 408
Authors: Leroy, A.; Bigiel, F.; Walter, F.; Brinks, E.; de Blok, W.J.G.; Madore, B.
Abstract: We combine The HI Nearby Galaxy Survey (THINGS) with our new survey of CO at the IRAM 30m, the Spitzer Infrared Nearby Galaxies Survey, and the GALEX Nearby Galaxies Survey to assemble an atlas of ”star formation in context” for 24 nearby galaxies. This includes kinematics and estimates of the surface densities of atomic gas, molecular gas, stellar mass, and star formation rate. We use these data to test theories and recipes of star formation on galactic scales. Here we present two basic results for spiral galaxies. First, molecular gas and star formation rate surface density (SFRSD) are well related by a linear relation across most of our sample while atomic gas and SFRSD are essentially uncorrelated. We interpret this as evidence that star formation is proceeding in a more or less universal population of giant molecular clouds (GMCs) across most of the area we survey. Second, while the star formation efficiency (SFE), i.e., the star formation per unit neutral gas, is nearly constant where the ISM is mostly molecular, it drops steadily with increasing galactocentric radius where the ISM is mostly atomic. This drop is well-defined and common to most galaxies. We interpret this as a decreasing efficiency of GMC formation with changing local conditions. At intermediate galactocentric radii, the observed SFE is roughly consistent with several expectations for GMC formation: either formation occuring over the free fall time in the disk or the equilibrium molecular fraction being set by the gas pressure. If GMC formation occurs over a dynamical timescale, a star formation threshold must come into play in the outer disk to match the observed SFE.
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