Toward a unification of star formation rate determinations in the Milky Way and other galaxies.
CHOMIUK L. and POVICH M.S.
Abstract (from CDS):
The star formation rate (SFR) of the Milky Way remains poorly known, with often-quoted values ranging from 1 to 10 M☉/yr. This situation persists despite the potential for the Milky Way to serve as the ultimate SFR calibrator for external galaxies. We show that various estimates for the Galactic SFR are consistent with one another once they have been normalized to the same initial mass function (IMF) and massive star models, converging to 1.9±0.4 M☉/yr. However, standard SFR diagnostics are vulnerable to systematics founded in the use of indirect observational tracers sensitive only to high-mass stars. We find that absolute SFRs measured using resolved low/intermediate-mass stellar populations in Galactic H II regions are systematically higher by factors of ∼2-3 compared with calibrations for SFRs measured from mid-IR and radio emission. We discuss some potential explanations for this discrepancy and conclude that it could be allayed if (1) the power-law slope of the IMF for intermediate-mass (1.5 M☉< m < 5M☉) stars were steeper than the Salpeter slope or (2) a correction factor was applied to the extragalactic 24 µm SFR calibrations to account for the duration of star formation in individual mid-IR-bright H II regions relative to the lifetimes of O stars. Finally, we present some approaches for testing whether a Galactic SFR of ∼2 M☉/yr is consistent with what we would measure if we could view the Milky Way as external observers. Using luminous radio supernova remnants and X-ray point sources, we find that the Milky Way deviates from expectations at the 1σ-3σ level, hinting that perhaps the Galactic SFR is overestimated or extragalactic SFRs need to be revised upward.
galaxies: star formation - Galaxy: fundamental parameters - H II regions - ISM: supernova remnants