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Self-regulated star formation in galaxies via momentum input from massive stars

Hopkins, Philip F. and Quataert, Eliot and Murray, Norman (2011) Self-regulated star formation in galaxies via momentum input from massive stars. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 417 (2). pp. 950-973. ISSN 0035-8711.

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Feedback from massive stars is believed to play a critical role in shaping the galaxy mass function, the structure of the interstellar medium (ISM) and the low efficiency of star formation, but the exact form of the feedback is uncertain. In this paper, the first in a series, we present and test a novel numerical implementation of stellar feedback resulting from momentum imparted to the ISM by radiation, supernovae and stellar winds. We employ a realistic cooling function, and find that a large fraction of the gas cools to ≲100 K, so that the ISM becomes highly inhomogeneous. Despite this, our simulated galaxies reach an approximate steady state, in which gas gravitationally collapses to form giant ‘molecular’ clouds (GMCs), dense clumps and stars; subsequently, stellar feedback disperses the GMCs, repopulating the diffuse ISM. This collapse and dispersal cycle is seen in models of Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC)-like dwarfs, the Milky Way and z∼ 2 clumpy disc analogues. The simulated global star formation efficiencies are consistent with the observed Kennicutt–Schmidt relation. Moreover, the star formation rates are nearly independent of the numerically imposed high-density star formation efficiency, density threshold and density scaling. This is a consequence of the fact that, in our simulations, star formation is regulated by stellar feedback limiting the amount of very dense gas available for forming stars. In contrast, in simulations without stellar feedback, i.e. under the action of only gravity and gravitationally induced turbulence, the ISM experiences runaway collapse to very high densities. In these simulations without feedback, the global star formation rates exceed observed galactic star formation rates by 1–2 orders of magnitude, demonstrating that stellar feedback is crucial to the regulation of star formation in galaxies.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription Paper
Hopkins, Philip F.0000-0003-3729-1684
Quataert, Eliot0000-0001-9185-5044
Additional Information:© 2011 The Authors. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society © 2011 RAS. Accepted 2011 June 21. Received 2011 June 21; in original form 2011 January 24. We thank Todd Thompson for helpful discussions and for collaboration that motivated this work. We also thank the anonymous referee for a number of thoughtful and useful suggestions. Support for PFH was provided by the Miller Institute for Basic Research in Science, University of California Berkeley. EQ is supported in part by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. NM is supported in part by the Canada Research Chair program and by NSERC of Canada.
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Miller Institute for Basic Research in ScienceUNSPECIFIED
David and Lucile Packard FoundationUNSPECIFIED
Canada Research Chairs ProgramUNSPECIFIED
Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC)UNSPECIFIED
Subject Keywords:galaxies: evolution, galaxies: formation, cosmology: theory
Issue or Number:2
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20200601-143025313
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Official Citation:Philip F. Hopkins, Eliot Quataert, Norman Murray, Self-regulated star formation in galaxies via momentum input from massive stars, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, Volume 417, Issue 2, October 2011, Pages 950–973,
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:103620
Deposited By: George Porter
Deposited On:01 Jun 2020 21:54
Last Modified:01 Jun 2020 21:54

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