The Gas-Star Formation Cycle in Nearby Star-forming Galaxies. I. Assessment of Multi-scale Variations

Eva Schinnerer, Annie Hughes, Adam Leroy, Brent Groves, Guillermo A. Blanc, Kathryn Kreckel, Frank Bigiel, Mélanie Chevance, Daniel Dale, Eric Emsellem, Christopher Faesi, Simon Glover, Kathryn Grasha, Jonathan Henshaw, Alexander Hygate, J. M.Diederik Kruijssen, Sharon Meidt, Jerome Pety, Miguel Querejeta, Erik RosolowskyToshiki Saito, Andreas Schruba, Jiayi Sun, Dyas Utomo

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58 Citations (Scopus)


The processes regulating star formation in galaxies are thought to act across a hierarchy of spatial scales. To connect extragalactic star formation relations from global and kiloparsec-scale measurements to recent cloud-scale resolution studies, we have developed a simple, robust method that quantifies the scale dependence of the relative spatial distributions of molecular gas and recent star formation. In this paper, we apply this method to eight galaxies with ∼1″ resolution molecular gas imaging from the Physics at High Angular resolution in Nearby GalaxieS-ALMA (PHANGS-ALMA) survey and PdBI Arcsecond Whirlpool Survey (PAWS) that have matched resolution, high-quality narrowband Hα imaging. At a common scale of 140 pc, our massive (log(M [M o˙]) = 9.3-10.7), normally star-forming (SFR[M o˙ yr-1] = 0.3-5.9) galaxies exhibit a significant reservoir of quiescent molecular gas not associated with star formation as traced by Hα emission. Galactic structures act as backbones for both molecular gas and H ii region distributions. As we degrade the spatial resolution, the quiescent molecular gas disappears, with the most rapid changes occurring for resolutions up to ∼0.5 kpc. As the resolution becomes poorer, the morphological features become indistinct for spatial scales larger than ∼1 kpc. The method is a promising tool to search for relationships between the quiescent or star-forming molecular reservoir and galaxy properties, but requires a larger sample size to identify robust correlations between the star-forming molecular gas fraction and global galaxy parameters.

Original languageEnglish
Article number49
JournalThe Astrophysical Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 10 Dec 2019


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