Connecting Clump Sizes in Turbulent Disk Galaxies to Instability Theory

David B. Fisher, Karl Glazebrook, Roberto G. Abraham, Ivana Damjanov, Heidi A White, Danail Obreschkow, Robert Bassett, Georgios Bekiaris, Emily Wisnioski, Andy Green, Alberto D. Bolatto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

23 Citations (Scopus)


In this letter we study the mean sizes of Hμ clumps in turbulent disk galaxies relative to kinematics, gas fractions, and Toomre Q. We use ∼100 pc resolution HST images, IFU kinematics, and gas fractions of a sample of rare, nearby turbulent disks with properties closely matched to main-sequence galaxies (the DYNAMO sample). We find linear correlations of normalized mean clump sizes with both the gas fraction and the velocity dispersion-to-rotation velocity ratio of the host galaxy. We show that these correlations are consistent with predictions derived from a model of instabilities in a self-gravitating disk (the so-called "violent disk instability model"). We also observe, using a two-fluid model for Q, a correlation between the size of clumps and self-gravity-driven unstable regions. These results are most consistent with the hypothesis that massive star-forming clumps in turbulent disks are the result of instabilities in self-gravitating gas-rich disks, and therefore provide a direct connection between resolved clump sizes and this in situ mechanism.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberL5
Number of pages6
JournalAstrophysical Journal Letters
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 6 Apr 2017

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