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Tracing Star Formation Across Scales: A Case Study in the Solar Neighborhood

Abstract: The processes regulating star formation in galaxies act across many orders of magnitude in spatial scale. Thus, a key challenge in understanding star formation is bridging the small-scale physics within molecular clouds and the large-scale structure of spiral galaxies. Fully constraining the physics of star formation across these scales requires constraints on both the 3D spatial structure and dynamical state of the interstellar medium (ISM), the combination of which has been an essentially unknown quantity in the field of star formation research. In this talk, I will discuss ongoing efforts to construct high-dimensional models of the ISM in the solar neighborhood by combining data science and visualization techniques with wide-field photometric, astrometric, and spectroscopic surveys. On kiloparsec scales, I will discuss how “3D dust mapping” has enabled constraints on the global distribution of molecular clouds, revealing new links between clouds long thought to be isolated and challenging fundamental assumptions about the shape and position of a nearby spiral arm. On parsec scales, I will show how combining 3D dust mapping with the 3D space motions of young stars can explain the origin of all local star formation as being driven by the expansion of the Local Bubble, the nearest superbubble to the Sun. Finally, on au-scales, I will discuss the implications that the Sun’s trajectory through the ISM has for the properties of the heliosphere and the geological record here on Earth. I will conclude by previewing the opportunities enabled by future infrared surveys, including SDSS-V and Roman, which together will pave the way for a unified understanding of the multi-scale physical processes shaping star formation in diverse environments across the Milky Way’s disk.

Cody Hall

Catherine Zucker, Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian

March 06, 2024
2:00pm - 3:00pm