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.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Astronomy and Astrophysics
- Space and Planetary Science