Extreme Variation in Star Formation Efficiency across a Compact, Starburst Disk Galaxy

D. B. Fisher, A. D. Bolatto, K. Glazebrook, D. Obreschkow, R. G. Abraham, G. G. Kacprzak, N. M. Nielsen

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3 Citations (Scopus)


We report on the internal distribution of star formation efficiency in IRAS 08339+6517 (hereafter IRAS08), using ∼200 pc resolution CO(2 - 1) observations from NOEMA. The molecular gas depletion time changes by 2 orders-of-magnitude from disk-like values in the outer parts to less than 108 yr inside the half-light radius. This translates to a star formation efficiency per freefall time that also changes by 2 orders-of-magnitude, reaching 50%-100%, different than local spiral galaxies and the typical assumption of constant, low star formation efficiencies. Our target is a compact, massive disk galaxy that has a star formation rate 10× above the z = 0 main sequence; Toomre Q ≈ 0.5-0.7 and high gas velocity dispersion (σ mol ≈ 25 km s-1). We find that IRAS08 is similar to other rotating, starburst galaxies from the literature in the resolved ςSFR ∝ ςmolN relation. By combining resolved literature studies we find that the distance from the main sequence is a strong indicator of the Kennicutt-Schmidt power-law slope, with slopes of N ≈ 1.6 for starbursts from 100 to 104 M ⊙ pc-2. Our target is consistent with a scenario in which violent disk instabilities drive rapid inflows of gas. It has low values of Toomre-Q, and also at all radii, the inflow timescale of the gas is less than the depletion time, which is consistent with the flat metallicity gradients in IRAS08. We consider these results in light of popular star formation theories; in general observations of IRAS08 find the most tension with theories in which star formation efficiency is a constant. Our results argue for the need of high-spatial-resolution CO observations for a larger number of similar targets.

Original languageEnglish
Article number169
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2022


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