EAS Publications Series
Volume 51, 2011Star Formation in the Local Universe – EES2010
|Page(s)||3 - 17|
|Published online||16 November 2011|
C. Charbonnel and T. Montmerle (eds)
EAS Publications Series, 51 (2011) 3–17
Star Formation on Galactic Scales: Empirical Laws
IBM T.J. Watson Research Center, 1101 Kitchawan Road, Yorktown Heights, New York 10598, USA
Empirical star formation laws from the last 20 years are reviewed with a comparison to simulations. The current form in main galaxy disks has a linear relationship between the star formation rate per unit area and the molecular cloud mass per unit area with a timescale for molecular gas conversion of about 2 Gyr. The local ratio of molecular mass to atomic mass scales nearly linearly with pressure, as determined from the weight of the gas layer in the galaxy. In the outer parts of galaxies and in dwarf irregular galaxies, the disk can be dominated by atomic hydrogen and the star formation rate per unit area becomes directly proportional to the total gas mass per unit area, with a consumption time of about 100 Gyr. The importance of a threshold for gravitational instabilities is not clear. Observations suggest such a threshold is not always important, while simulations generally show that it is. The threshold is difficult to evaluate because it is sensitive to magnetic and viscous forces, the presence of spiral waves and other local effects, and the equation of state.
© EAS, EDP Sciences, 2011
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