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Today's colloquium: How stars from out of molecular gas in spiral galaxies

Submitter: Eva Schinnerer (Max Planck Institute for Astronomy)
Description: Understanding the processes that regulate the formation of stars within galaxies is one of the major themes in current astrophysical research. Giant Molecular Clouds (GMCs, size ~ 40pc) are thought to play a critical role in these processes as they host most of the massive star formation occurring in our Galaxy. Detailed observations on their scales can provide important insights on the properties of the star forming interstellar medium and the conditions promoting the formation of massive stars.

Combining exquisite data on the molecular gas disk in the grand-design spiral galaxy M51 at 40pc resolution from the PdBI Arcsecond Whirlpool Survey (PAWS) with ancillary data across the electromagnetic spectrum allowed us to investigate in detail how molecular gas, dust and star formation relate across the galaxy disk and test common assumption about Giant Molecular Clouds. I will present highlights from our studies.

Picture caption: The background is a color image of M51 by the Hubble Space Telescope. Superimposed in blue is the CO(1-0) radiation from carbon monoxide (CO) as a tracer of the molecular hydrogen, the raw material for forming new stars, obtained by the telescopes of the Institute de Radioastromonie Millimetrique. The red structures show the HI line of atomic hydrogen from the THINGS survey conducted at NRAO's Very Large Array.
Copyright: Credit: PAWS team/IRAM/NASA HST/T.A. Rector (University of Alaska Anchorage)
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