Monday, July 29, 2013

1307.7116 (Deidre A. Hunter et al.)

Star Formation in Two Luminous Spiral Galaxies    [PDF]

Deidre A. Hunter, Bruce G. Elmegreen, Vera C. Rubin, Allison Ashburn, Teresa Wright, Gyula I. G. Jozsa, Christian Struve
We have examined star formation in two very luminous (M_V=-22 to -23) Sc-type spiral galaxies, NGC 801 and UGC 2885, using ultra-deep Halpha images. We combine these with UBV and 2MASS JHK images and HI maps to explore the star formation characteristics of disk galaxies at high luminosity. Halpha traces star formation in these galaxies to 4-6 disk scale lengths, but the lack of detection of Halpha further out is likely due to loss of Lyman continuum photons. Considering gravitational instabilities alone, we find that the gas and stars in the outer regions are marginally stable in an average sense, but considering dissipative gas and radial and azimuthal forcing, the outer regions are marginally unstable to form spiral arms. Star formation is taking place in spiral arms, which are regions of locally higher gas densities. Furthermore, we have traced smooth exponential stellar disks over 3-orders of magnitude and 4-6 disk scale lengths, in spite of a highly variable gravitational instability parameter. Thus, gravitational instability thresholds do not seem relevant to the stellar disk. One possibility for creating an exponential disk is that the molecular cloud densities and star formation rates have exponential profiles and this forces the stellar disk to build up such a profile. Another possibility is that the stellar disk is continuously adjusted to an exponential shape regardless of the star formation profile, for example through global dynamical process that scatter stars. However, such scattering processes are only known to operate in spiral systems, in which case they cannot explain the same dilemma of smooth exponential disks observed in dwarf irregular galaxies.
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