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An instability of feedback regulated star formation in galactic nuclei

Torrey, Paul and Hopkins, Philip F. and Faucher-Giguère, Claude-André and Vogelsberger, Mark and Quataert, Eliot and Kereš, Dušan and Murray, Norman (2017) An instability of feedback regulated star formation in galactic nuclei. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 467 (2). pp. 2301-2314. ISSN 0035-8711. doi:10.1093/mnras/stx254.

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We examine the stability of feedback-regulated star formation (SF) in galactic nuclei and contrast it to SF in extended discs. In galactic nuclei the dynamical time becomes shorter than the time over which feedback from young stars evolves. We argue analytically that the balance between stellar feedback and gravity is unstable in this regime. We study this using numerical simulations with pc-scale resolution and explicit stellar feedback taken from stellar evolution models. The nuclear gas mass, young stellar mass, and SFR within the central ~100 pc (the short-timescale regime) never reach steady-state, but instead go through dramatic, oscillatory cycles. Stars form until a critical surface density of young stars is present (such that feedback overwhelms gravity), at which point they begin to expel gas from the nucleus. Since the dynamical times are shorter than the stellar evolution times, the stars do not die as the gas is expelled, but continue to push, triggering a runaway quenching of star formation in the nucleus. However the expelled gas is largely not unbound from the galaxy, but goes into a galactic fountain which re-fills the nuclear region after the massive stars from the previous burst cycle have died off (~50 Myr timescale). On large scales (>1 kpc), the galaxy-scale gas content and SFR is more stable. We examine the consequences of this episodic nuclear star formation for the Kennicutt-Schmidt (KS) relation: while a tight KS relation exists on ~1 kpc scales in good agreement with observations, the scatter increases dramatically in smaller apertures centered on galactic nuclei.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription Paper
Torrey, Paul0000-0002-5653-0786
Hopkins, Philip F.0000-0003-3729-1684
Faucher-Giguère, Claude-André0000-0002-4900-6628
Vogelsberger, Mark0000-0001-8593-7692
Quataert, Eliot0000-0001-9185-5044
Kereš, Dušan0000-0002-1666-7067
Additional Information:© 2017 The Authors. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Royal Astronomical Society. Accepted 2017 January 26. Received 2017 January 26; in original form 2016 March 23. We thank the referee, Eve Ostriker, for the many thoughtful comments that have strengthened this work. PT acknowledges helpful discussions with Sara Ellison, Nick McConnell and Sarah Wellons. PT is supported through Hubble Fellowship grant #HST-HF2-51384.001-A awarded by the Space Telescope Science Institute, which is operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc., for NASA, under contract NAS5-26555. Support for PFH was provided by an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship, NASA ATP Grant NNX14AH35G, NSF Collaborative Research Grant #1411920, and CAREER grant #1455342. CAFG was supported by NSF through grants AST-1412836 and AST-1517491, by NASA through grant NNX15AB22G and by STScI through grant HST-AR-14293.001-A. MV acknowledges support through an MIT RSC award. DK was supported by NSF grant AST-1412153 and Cottrell Scholar Award from the Research Corporation for Science Advancement. EQ was supported in part by NASA ATP grant 12-APT12-0183, a Simons Investigator award from the Simons Foundation, and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. The simulations reported in this paper were run and processed on the ‘Quest’ computer cluster at Northwestern University, the Caltech compute cluster ‘Zwicky’ (NSF MRI award #PHY-0960291), the joint partition of the MIT-Harvard computing cluster ‘Odyssey’ supported by MKI and FAS, and allocation TG-AST130039 and TG-AST150059 granted by the Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment (XSEDE) supported by the NSF.
Group:Astronomy Department
Funding AgencyGrant Number
NASA Hubble FellowshipHST-HF2-51384.001-A
Alfred P. Sloan FoundationUNSPECIFIED
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)UNSPECIFIED
Cottrell Scholar of Research CorporationUNSPECIFIED
Simons FoundationUNSPECIFIED
David and Lucile Packard FoundationUNSPECIFIED
Subject Keywords:methods: numerical stars: formation galaxies: evolution galaxies: formation galaxies: high- redshift galaxies: ISM galaxies: starburst
Issue or Number:2
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20160202-071708669
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:Paul Torrey, Philip F. Hopkins, Claude-André Faucher-Giguère, Mark Vogelsberger, Eliot Quataert, Dušan Kereš, Norman Murray; An instability of feedback-regulated star formation in galactic nuclei. Mon Not R Astron Soc 2017; 467 (2): 2301-2314. doi: 10.1093/mnras/stx254
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:64144
Deposited By: Ruth Sustaita
Deposited On:03 Feb 2016 00:24
Last Modified:10 Nov 2021 23:26

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