Pressure-regulated, Feedback-modulated Star Formation in Disk Galaxies

Eve C. Ostriker, Chang Goo Kim

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30 Scopus citations


The star formation rate (SFR) in galactic disks depends on both the quantity of the available interstellar medium (ISM) gas and its physical state. Conversely, the ISM’s physical state depends on the SFR, because the “feedback” energy and momentum injected by recently formed massive stars is crucial to offsetting losses from turbulent dissipation and radiative cooling. The ISM’s physical state also responds to the gravitational field that confines it, with increased weight driving higher pressure. In a quasi-steady state, it is expected that the mean total pressure of different thermal phases will match each other, that the component pressures and total pressure will satisfy thermal and dynamical equilibrium requirements, and that the SFR will adjust as needed to provide the requisite stellar radiation and supernova feedback. The pressure-regulated, feedback-modulated (PRFM) theory of the star-forming ISM formalizes these ideas, leading to a prediction that the SFR per unit area, ΣSFR, will scale nearly linearly with ISM weight. In terms of the large-scale gas surface density Σgas, stellar plus dark matter density ρ sd, and effective ISM velocity dispersion σ eff, an observable weight estimator is ≈ P DE = π G Σ gas 2 / 2 + Σ gas ( 2 G ρ sd ) 1 / 2 σ eff , and this is predicted to match the total midplane pressure P tot. Using a suite of multiphase magnetohydrodynamic simulations run with the TIGRESS computational framework, we test the principles of the PRFM model and calibrate the total feedback yield ϒtot = P totSFR ∼ 1000 km s−1, as well as its components. We compare the results from TIGRESS to theory, previous numerical simulations, and observations, finding excellent agreement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number137
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Sep 1 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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