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Paper: Gas Flows in Galactic Centre Environments: Cloud Evolution and Star Formation in the Central Molecular Zone
Volume: 528, New Horizons in Galactic Center Astronomy and Beyond
Page: 67
Authors: Petkova, M. A.; Diederik Kruijssen, J. M.
Abstract: The Central Molecular Zone (CMZ; the central 500 pc of the Galaxy) is the most extreme star-forming environment in the Milky Way in terms of gas pressures, densities, temperatures, and dynamics. It acts as a critical test bed for developing star formation theories applicable to the (high-redshift-like) conditions under which most stars in the Universe formed. We present a set of numerical simulations of molecular clouds orbiting on the 100-pc stream that dominates the molecular gas reservoir of the CMZ, with the goal of characterising their morphological and kinematic evolution in response to the external gravitational potential and their eccentric orbital motion. These simulations capture the evolution of single clouds in a strong and plausibly dominant background potential. We find that the evolution of the clouds is closely coupled to the orbital dynamics and their arrival on the 100-pc stream marks a transformative event in their lifecycle. The clouds' sizes, aspect ratios, position angles, filamentary structure, column densities, velocity dispersions, line-of-sight velocity gradients, angular momenta, and overall kinematic complexity are controlled by the background potential and their passage through the orbit's pericentre. We compare these predictions of our simulations to observations of clouds on the Galactic Centre ‘dust ridge’ and find that the inclusion of galactic dynamics naturally reproduces a surprisingly wide variety of key observed morphological and kinematic features. We argue that the accretion of gas clouds onto the central regions of galaxies, where the rotation curve turns over and the tidal field becomes fully compressive, is likely to lead to their collapse and associated star formation. This can generate an evolutionary progression of cloud collapse with a common zero point. Together, these processes may naturally give rise to the synchronised starbursts observed in numerous (extra)galactic nuclei.
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