Star formation and young stellar content in the W3 giant molecular cloud.
RIVERA-INGRAHAM A., MARTIN P.G., POLYCHRONI D. and MOORE T.J.T.
Abstract (from CDS):
In this work, we have carried out an in-depth analysis of the young stellar content in the W3 giant molecular cloud (GMC). The young stellar object (YSO) population was identified and classified in the Infrared Array Camera/Multiband Imaging Photometer color-magnitude space according to the "Class" scheme and compared to other classifications based on intrinsic properties. Class 0/I and II candidates were also compared to low-/intermediate-mass pre-main-sequence (PMS) stars selected through their colors and magnitudes in the Two Micron All Sky Survey. We find that a reliable color/magnitude selection of low-mass PMS stars in the infrared requires prior knowledge of the protostar population, while intermediate-mass objects can be more reliably identified. By means of the minimum spanning tree algorithm and our YSO spatial distribution and age maps, we investigated the YSO groups and the star formation history in W3. We find signatures of clustered and distributed star formation in both triggered and quiescent environments. The central/western parts of the GMC are dominated by large-scale turbulence likely powered by isolated bursts of star formation that triggered secondary star formation events. Star formation in the eastern high-density layer (HDL) also shows signs of quiescent and triggered stellar activity, as well as extended periods of star formation. While our findings support triggering as a key factor for inducing and enhancing some of the major star-forming activity in the HDL (e.g., W3 Main/W3(OH)), we argue that some degree of quiescent or spontaneous star formation is required to explain the observed YSO population. Our results also support previous studies claiming a spontaneous origin for the isolated massive star(s) powering KR 140.