Testing models for molecular gas formation in galaxies: hydrostatic pressure or gas and dust shielding?
FUMAGALLI M., KRUMHOLZ M.R. and HUNT L.K.
Abstract (from CDS):
Stars in galaxies form in giant molecular clouds that coalesce when the atomic hydrogen is converted into molecules. There are currently two dominant models based on the property of the galactic disk that determines its molecular fraction: either hydrostatic pressure driven by the gravity of gas and stars, or a combination of gas column density and metallicity. To assess the validity of these models, we compare theoretical predictions to the observed atomic gas content of low-metallicity dwarf galaxies with high stellar densities. The extreme conditions found in these systems are optimal for distinguishing the two models, otherwise degenerate in nearby spirals. Locally, on scales <100 pc, we find that the state of the interstellar medium is mostly sensitive to the gas column density and metallicity rather than hydrostatic pressure. On larger scales where the average stellar density is considerably lower, both pressure and shielding models reproduce the observations, even at low metallicity. We conclude that models based on gas and dust shielding more closely describe the process of molecular formation, especially at the high resolution that can be achieved in modern galaxy simulations or with future radio/millimeter arrays.