The Cloud Factory I: Generating resolved filamentary molecular clouds from galactic-scale forces

Rowan Smith, Robin G. Treß, Mattia Sormani, Simon C. O. Glover, Ralf S. Klessen, Paul C. Clark, Andres Felipe Izquierdo Cartagena, Ana Cabral, Catherine Zucker

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We introduce a new suite of simulations, "The Cloud Factory", which self-consistently forms molecular cloud complexes at high enough resolution to resolve internal substructure (up to 0.25 M in mass) all while including galactic-scale forces. We use a version of the Arepo code modified to include a detailed treatment of the physics of the cold molecular ISM, and an analytical galactic gravitational potential for computational efficiency. The simulations have nested levels of resolution, with the lowest layer tied to tracer particles injected into individual cloud complexes. These tracer refinement regions are embedded in the larger simulation so continue to experience forces from outside the cloud. This allows the simulations to act as a laboratory for testing the effect of galactic environment on star formation. Here we introduce our method and investigate the effect of galactic environment on filamentary clouds. We find that cloud complexes formed after a clustered burst of feedback, have shorter lengths and are less likely to fragment compared to quiescent clouds (e.g. the Musca filament) or those dominated by the galactic potential (e.g. Nessie). Spiral arms and differential rotation preferentially align filaments, but strong feedback randomises them. Long filaments formed within the cloud complexes are necessarily coherent with low internal velocity gradients, which has implications for the formation of filamentary star-clusters. Cloud complexes formed in regions dominated by supernova feedback have fewer star-forming cores, and these are more widely distributed. These differences show galactic-scale forces can have a significant impact on star formation within molecular clouds.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1594-1613
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2 Dec 2019


  • galaxies:ISM
  • galaxies:star-formation
  • ISM:structure
  • ISM:clouds


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