Author(s): , ,
Institution(s): 1. Harvard University, 2. Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, 3. University of Vienna
The physical process by which gas is converted into stars takes place on small scales within Giant Molecular Clouds (GMCs), while the formation and evolution of these GMCs is influenced by global, galactic-scale processes. It is thus of key importance to connect GMC (~10 pc) and galaxy (~10 kpc) scales in order to approach a fundamental understanding of the star formation process. With this goal in mind, we have conducted a multiscale, comprehensive, multiwavelength study of the interstellar medium and star formation in the nearby (d~1.9 Mpc) spiral galaxy NGC 300. We have fully mapped the dust content within this star-forming galaxy with the Herschel Space Observatory, combining these observations with archival Spitzer data to construct a high-sensitivity, ~250 pc-scale map of the column density and dust temperature across the entire NGC 300 disk. We find that peaks in the dust temperature generally correspond with active star-forming regions, and use our Herschel data along with pointed CO(2-1) observations from APEX to characterize the ISM in these regions. To derive star formation rates from ultraviolet, visible, and infrared photometry, we have developed a new method that utilizes population synthesis modeling of individual stellar populations and accounts for both the presence of extinction and the short (< 10 Myr) timescales appropriate for cloud-scale star formation. We find that the average molecular gas depletion time at GMC complex scales in NGC 300 is similar to that of Milky Way clouds, but significantly shorter than depletion times measured over kpc-sized regions in nearby galaxies. This difference likely reflects the presence of a diffuse, non-star-forming component of molecular gas between GMCs, as well as the fact that star formation is strongly concentrated in discrete regions within galaxies. I will also present first results from follow-up interferometric observations with the SMA and ALMA that resolve individual GMCs in NGC 300 for the first time, connecting GMC and galaxy scales. Finally, I will compare GMC properties between NGC 300 and other galaxies including the Milky Way.