AAS 195th Meeting, January 2000
Session 31. Star Formation in Nearby Spirals: Environment and Tracers
Oral, Wednesday, January 12, 2000, 2:00-3:30pm, Centennial IV

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[31.02] A BIMA SONG Comparison of Molecular Gas and H\alpha in Nearby Spirals

K. Sheth (U. Maryland), M. D. Thornley (NRAO), T. Wong (UC-Berkeley), T. T. Helfer (U. Arizona), M. W. Regan (CIW-DTM), S. N. Vogel, A. Harris (U. Maryland), L. Blitz, D. C.-J. Bock (UC-Berkeley)

In the Milky Way, star formation is spatially correlated with molecular clouds. Though widely assumed, a similar correlation in external galaxies has been difficult to quantify due to the lack of high-resolution molecular gas data. With the recent completion of the BIMA Survey of CO in Nearby Galaxies (BIMA SONG), the first systematic imaging survey of molecular gas in nearby spirals, we can now make such comparisons. In this talk, we compare the distribution of H\alpha, which traces massive star formation, and CO(J=1-0) line emission, which traces the molecular gas, for a dozen nearby spirals. The H\alpha dataset is from a set of parallel observations that we are collecting to complement the BIMA SONG maps.

We compare the radial profiles of the two tracers, and using a correlation analysis, measure the spatial correlation between the molecular gas and star formation activity. These preliminary results begin to address some of the broader questions which can be answered by such studies, e.g. what triggers or inhibits star formation, what controls its rate, and what role do dynamical structures such as spiral arms or bars play in inducing or preventing star formation?

This work is supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 96-13716.

The author(s) of this abstract have provided an email address for comments about the abstract: kartik@astro.umd.edu

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