Astronomy and Astrophysics, volume 515, A51-51 (2010/6-1)
Searching for dark clouds in the outer galactic plane. I. A statistical approach for identifying extended red(dened) regions in 2MASS.
FRIESWIJK W.W.F. and SHIPMAN R.F.
Abstract (from CDS):
Most of what is known about clustered star formation to date comes from well studied star forming regions located relatively nearby, such as Rho-Ophiuchus, Serpens and Perseus. However, the recent discovery of infrared dark clouds may give new insights in our understanding of this dominant mode of star formation in the Galaxy. Though the exact role of infrared dark clouds in the formation process is still somewhat unclear, they seem to provide useful laboratories to study the very early stages of clustered star formation. Infrared dark clouds have been identified predominantly toward the bright inner parts of the galactic plane. The low background emission makes it more difficult to identify similar objects in mid-infrared absorption in the outer parts. This is unfortunate, because the outer Galaxy represents the only nearby region where we can study effects of different (external) conditions on the star formation process. The aim of this paper is to identify extended red regions in the outer galactic plane based on reddening of stars in the near-infrared. We argue that these regions appear reddened mainly due to extinction caused by molecular clouds and young stellar objects. The work presented here is used as a basis for identifying star forming regions and in particular the very early stages. An accompanying paper describes the cross-identification of the identified regions with existing data, uncovering more on the nature of the reddening. We use the Mann-Whitney U-test, in combination with a friends-of-friends algorithm, to identify extended reddened regions in the 2MASS all-sky JHK survey. We process the data on a regular grid using two different resolutions, 60'' and 90''. The two resolutions have been chosen because the stellar surface density varies between the crowded spiral arm regions and the sparsely populated galactic anti-center region. We identify 1320 extended red regions at the higher resolution and 1589 in the lower resolution run. The linear extent of the identified regions ranges from a few arc-minutes to about a degree. The majority of extended red regions are associated with major molecular cloud complexes, supporting our hypothesis that the reddening is mostly due to foreground clouds and embedded objects. The reliability of the identified regions is >99.9%. Because we choose to identify object with a high reliability we can not quantify the completeness of the list of regions.