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Turbulence and galactic structure

  • Elmegreen, Bruce G.
Publication Date
Jul 28, 2004
Submission Date
Jul 28, 2004
DOI: 10.1007/978-1-4020-2862-5_48
arXiv ID: astro-ph/0407582
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Interstellar turbulence is driven over a wide range of scales by processes including spiral arm instabilities and supernovae, and it affects the rate and morphology of star formation, energy dissipation, and angular momentum transfer in galaxy disks. Star formation is initiated on large scales by gravitational instabilities which control the overall rate through the long dynamical time corresponding to the average ISM density. Stars form at much higher densities than average, however, and at much faster rates locally, so the slow average rate arises because the fraction of the gas mass that forms stars at any one time is low, ~10^{-4}. This low fraction is determined by turbulence compression, and is apparently independent of specific cloud formation processes which all operate at lower densities. Turbulence compression also accounts for the formation of most stars in clusters, along with the cluster mass spectrum, and it gives a hierarchical distribution to the positions of these clusters and to star-forming regions in general. Turbulent motions appear to be very fast in irregular galaxies at high redshift, possibly having speeds equal to several tenths of the rotation speed in view of the morphology of chain galaxies and their face-on counterparts. The origin of this turbulence is not evident, but some of it could come from accretion onto the disk. Such high turbulence could help drive an early epoch of gas inflow through viscous torques in galaxies where spiral arms and bars are weak. Such evolution may lead to bulge or bar formation, or to bar re-formation if a previous bar dissolved. We show evidence that the bar fraction is about constant with redshift out to z~1, and model the formation and destruction rates of bars required to achieve this constancy.

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