Wednesday, May 29, 2013

1305.6383 (J. Kainulainen et al.)

High-fidelity view of the structure and fragmentation of the high-mass, filamentary IRDC G11.11-0.12    [PDF]

J. Kainulainen, S. E. Ragan, T. Henning, A. Stutz
Star formation in molecular clouds is intimately linked to their internal mass distribution. We present an unprecedentedly detailed analysis of the column density structure of a high-mass, filamentary molecular cloud, namely IRDC G11.11-0.12 (G11). We use two novel column density mapping techniques: high-resolution (FWHM=2", or ~0.035 pc) dust extinction mapping in near- and mid-infrared, and dust emission mapping with the Herschel satellite. These two completely independent techniques yield a strikingly good agreement, highlighting their complementarity and robustness. We first analyze the dense gas mass fraction and linear mass density of G11. We show that G11 has a top heavy mass distribution and has a linear mass density (M_l ~ 600 Msun pc^{-1}) that greatly exceeds the critical value of a self-gravitating, non-turbulent cylinder. These properties make G11 analogous to the Orion A cloud, despite its low star-forming activity. This suggests that the amount of dense gas in molecular clouds is more closely connected to environmental parameters or global processes than to the star-forming efficiency of the cloud. We then examine hierarchical fragmentation in G11 over a wide range of size-scales and densities. We show that at scales 0.5 pc > l > 8 pc, the fragmentation of G11 is in agreement with that of a self-gravitating cylinder. At scales smaller than l < 0.5 pc, the results agree better with spherical Jeans' fragmentation. One possible explanation for the change in fragmentation characteristics is the size-scale-dependent collapse time-scale that results from the finite size of real molecular clouds: at scales l < 0.5 pc, fragmentation becomes sufficiently rapid to be unaffected by global instabilities.
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