Local Simulations of Spiral Galaxies with the TIGRESS Framework. I. Star Formation and Arm Spurs/Feathers

Woong Tae Kim, Chang Goo Kim, Eve C. Ostriker

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37 Scopus citations


Spiral arms greatly affect gas flows and star formation in disk galaxies. We use local three-dimensional simulations of the vertically stratified, self-gravitating, differentially rotating interstellar medium (ISM) subject to a stellar spiral potential to study the effects of spiral arms on star formation and formation of arm spurs/feathers. We adopt the TIGRESS framework of Kim & Ostriker to handle radiative heating and cooling, star formation, and ensuing supernova (SN) feedback. We find that more than 90% of star formation takes place in spiral arms, but the global star formation rate (SFR) in models with spiral arms is enhanced by less than a factor of 2 compared to the no-arm counterpart. This results from a quasi-linear relationship between the SFR surface density Σ SFR and the gas surface density Σ, and supports the picture that spiral arms do not trigger star formation but rather concentrate star-forming regions. Correlated SN feedback produces gaseous spurs/feathers downstream from arms in both magnetized and unmagnetized models. These spurs/feathers are short lived and have magnetic fields parallel to their length, in contrast to the longer-lived features with perpendicular magnetic fields induced by gravitational instability. SN feedback drives the turbulent component of magnetic fields, with the total magnetic field strength sublinearly proportional to Σ. The total midplane pressure varies by a factor of ∼10 between arm and interarm regions but agrees locally with the total vertical ISM weight, while Σ SFR is locally consistent with the prediction of pressure-regulated, feedback-modulated theory.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number35
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 20 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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