Slow Star Formation in the Milky Way: Theory Meets Observations

Neal J. Evans, Jeong Gyu Kim, Eve C. Ostriker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


The observed star formation rate of the Milky Way can be explained by applying a metallicity-dependent factor to convert CO luminosity to molecular gas mass and a star formation efficiency per freefall time that depends on the virial parameter of a molecular cloud. These procedures also predict the trend of star formation rate surface density with Galactocentric radius. The efficiency per freefall time variation with virial parameter plays a major role in bringing theory into agreement with observations for the total star formation rate, while the metallicity dependence of the CO luminosity-to-mass conversion is most notable in the variation with Galactocentric radius. Application of these changes resolves a factor of over 100 discrepancy between observed and theoretical star formation rates that has been known for nearly 50 yr.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberL18
JournalAstrophysical Journal Letters
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 1 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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