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The role of stellar feedback on the structure of the ISM and star formation in galaxies.

Grisdale, Kearn (2017) The role of stellar feedback on the structure of the ISM and star formation in galaxies. Doctoral thesis, University of Surrey.

Text (PhD Thesis, Written by Kearn M Grisdale)
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Stellar feedback refers to the injection of energy, momentum and mass into the interstellar medium (ISM) by massive stars. This feedback owes to a combination of ionising radiation, radiation pressure, stellar winds and supernovae and is likely responsible both for the inefficiency of star formation in galaxies, and the observed super-sonic turbulence of the ISM. In this thesis, I study how stellar feedback shapes the ISM thereby regulating galaxy evolution. In particular, I focus on three key questions: (i) How does stellar feedback shape the gas density distribution of the ISM? (ii) How does feedback change or influence the distribution of the kinetic energy in the ISM? and (iii) What role does feedback play in determining the star formation efficiency of giant molecular clouds (GMCs)? To answer these questions, I run high resolution (dx~4.6 pc) numerical simulations of three isolated galaxies, both with and without stellar feedback. I compare these simulations to observations of six galaxies from The HI Nearby Galaxy Survey (THINGS) using power spectra, and I use clump finding techniques to identify GMCs in my simulations and calculate their properties. I find that the kinetic energy power spectra in stellar feedback- regulated galaxies, regardless of the galaxy's mass and size, show scalings in excellent agreement with supersonic turbulence on scales below the thickness of the HI layer. I show that feedback influences the gas density field, and drives gas turbulence, up to large (kiloparsec) scales. This is in stark contrast to the density fields generated by large-scale gravity-only driven turbulence (i.e. without stellar feedback). Simulations with stellar feedback are able to reproduce the internal properties of GMCs such as: mass, size and velocity dispersion. Finally, I demonstrate that my simulations naturally reproduce the observed scatter (3.5-4 dex) in the star formation efficiency per free-fall time of GMCs, despite only employing a simple Schmidt star formation law. I conclude that the neutral gas content of galaxies carries signatures of stellar feedback on all scales and that stellar feedback is, therefore, key to regulating the evolution of galaxies over cosmic time.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects : Astrophysics: Galactic Evolution
Divisions : Theses
Authors :
Grisdale, Kearn
Date : 30 June 2017
Funders : University of Surrey
Contributors :
Depositing User : Kearn Grisdale
Date Deposited : 30 Jun 2017 08:53
Last Modified : 09 Nov 2018 16:39

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