The mass function of supergiant molecular complexes and implications for forming young massive star clusters in the Antennae (NGC 4038/4039).
WILSON C.D., SCOVILLE N., MADDEN S.C. and CHARMANDARIS V.
Abstract (from CDS):
We have used previously published observations of the CO emission from the Antennae (NGC 4038/4039) to study the detailed properties of the supergiant molecular complexes with the goal of understanding the formation of young massive star clusters. Over a mass range from 5x106 to 9x108M☉ the molecular complexes follow a power-law mass function with a slope of -1.4±0.1, which is very similar to the slope seen at lower masses in molecular clouds and cloud cores in the Galaxy. Compared with the spiral galaxy M51, which has a similar surface density and total mass of molecular gas, the Antennae contain clouds that are an order of magnitude more massive. Many of the youngest star clusters lie in the gas-rich overlap region, where extinctions as high as AV∼100 mag imply that the clusters must lie in front of the gas. Young clusters found in other regions of the galaxies can be as far as 2 kpc from the nearest massive cloud, which suggests that either young clusters can form occasionally in clouds less massive than 5x106M☉or that these young clusters have already destroyed their parent molecular clouds. Combining data on the young clusters, thermal and nonthermal radio sources, and the molecular gas suggests that young massive clusters could have formed at a constant rate in the Antennae over the last 160 Myr and that sufficient gas exists to sustain this cluster formation rate well into the future. However, this conclusion requires that a very high fraction of the massive clusters that form initially in the Antennae do not survive as long as 100 Myr. Furthermore, if most young massive clusters do survive for long periods, the Antennae must be experiencing a relatively short burst of cluster formation to prevent the final merger remnant from exceeding the observed specific frequency of star clusters in elliptical galaxies by a wide margin. Finally, we compare our data with two models for massive star cluster formation and conclude that the model in which young massive star clusters form from dense cores within the observed supergiant molecular complexes is most consistent with our current understanding of this merging system.
Galaxies: Individual: NGC Number: NGC 4038 - Galaxies: Individual: NGC Number: NGC 4039 - Galaxies: ISM - ISM: Molecules - Radio Lines: Galaxies - Stars: Formation