Friday, May 28, 2010

Interesting Astrophysics: 17 May to 28 May

The final batch of interesting preprints (and a few accepted papers) for May 2010.


Galaxies and Starbursts

Witnessing the Formation of a Brightest Cluster Galaxy in a Nearby X-ray Cluster
Jesper Rasmussen, John S. Mulchaey, Lei Bai, Trevor J. Ponman, Somak Raychaudhury, Ali Dariush, arXiv:1005.3538 [pdf, ps, other]
Comments: 16 pages, 12 figures. ApJ accepted

UV+IR Star Formation Rates: Hickson Compact Groups with Swift and Spitzer
P. Tzanavaris, A. E. Hornschemeier, S. C. Gallagher, K. E. Johnson, C. Gronwall, S. Immler, A. E. Reines, E. Hoversten, J. C. Charlton, arXiv:1005.4059 [pdf, ps, other]
Comments: Accepted by ApJ. [8 Tables, 16 Figures. Color figures have reduced size for ArXiv - emulateapj v. 2/16/10]
Journal-ref: Astrophysical Journal 716 (2010) 556-573

From their abstract: "We present Swift UVOT (1600-3000A) 3-band photometry for 41 galaxies in 11 nearby (<4500km/s) Hickson Compact Groups (HCGs) of galaxies. We use the uvw2-band (2000A) to estimate the dust-unobscured component, SFR_UV, of the total star-formation rate, SFR_T. We use Spitzer MIPS 24-micron photometry to estimate SFR_IR, the dust-obscured component of SFR_T. We obtain SFR_T=SFR_UV+SFR_IR. Using 2MASS K_s band based stellar mass, M*, estimates, we calculate specific SFRs, SSFR=SFR_T/M*. SSFR values show a clear and significant bimodality, with a gap between low (<~3.2x10^-11 / yr) and high SSFR (>~1.2x10^-10 / yr) systems. All galaxies with MIR activity index a_IRAC <= 0 (>0) are in the high- (low-) SSFR locus, as expected if high levels of star-formation power MIR emission from polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon molecules and a hot dust continuum. All elliptical/S0 galaxies are in the low-SSFR locus, while 22 out of 24 spirals/irregulars are in the high-SSFR locus, with two borderline cases. ... Unlike HCG galaxies, galaxies in a comparison quiescent SINGS sub-sample are continuously distributed both in SSFR and a_IRAC. Any uncertainties can only further enhance the SSFR bimodality. These results suggest that an environment characterized by high galaxy number-densities and low galaxy velocity-dispersions, such as the one found in compact groups, plays a key role in accelerating galaxy evolution by enhancing star-formation processes in galaxies and favoring a fast transition to quiescence."

Radiation pressure from massive star clusters as a launching mechanism for super-galactic winds
Norman Murray, Brice Ménard, Todd A. Thompson, arXiv:1005.4419 [pdf, ps, other]
Comments: Submitted to ApJ, comments welcome
Subjects: Cosmology and Extragalactic Astrophysics (astro-ph.CO); Galaxy Astrophysics (astro-ph.GA)

Their abstact: "Galactic outflows of low ionization, cool gas are ubiquitous in local starburst galaxies, and in the majority of galaxies at high redshift. How these cool outflows arise is still in question. Hot gas from supernovae has long been suspected as the primary driver, but this mechanism suffers from its tendency to destroy the cool gas as the latter is accelerated. We propose a modification of the supernova scenario that overcomes this difficulty.
Star formation is observed to take place in clusters; in a given galaxy, the bulk of the star formation is found in the ~20 most massive clusters. We show that, for L* galaxies, the radiation pressure from clusters with M>10^6 M_sun is able to expel the surrounding gas at velocities in excess of the circular velocity of the disk galaxy. This cool gas can travel above the galactic disk in less than 2 Myr, well before any supernovae erupt in the driving cluster. Once above the disk, the cool outflowing gas is exposed to radiation, and supernovae induced hot gas outflows, from other clusters in the disk, which drive it to distances of several tens to hundreds of kpc. Because the radiatively driven clouds grow in size as they travel, and because the hot gas is more dilute at large distance, the clouds are less subject to destruction if they do eventually encounter hot gas. Therefore, unlike wind driven clouds, radiatively driven clouds can survive to distances ~50 kpc. We identify these cluster-driven winds with large-scale galactic outflows. Another implication of our model is that only starburst galaxies, where massive clusters reside, are able to drive winds cold outflows on galactic scales via this mechanism. We find that the critical star formation rates above which large scale cool outflows will be launched to be ~0.1 M_sun/yr/kpc^2, which is in good agreement with observations."


I can see a quite a few problems with this line of argumentation. Hopefully I'll get around to addressing them in the monster paper I'm still adding to. Why write three papers when you can just write one absurdly large one?


Black Holes and AGN

"Comets" orbiting a black hole
R. Maiolino, G. Risaliti, M. Salvati, P. Pietrini, G. Torricelli-Ciamponi, M. Elvis, G. Fabbiano, V. Braito, J. Reeves, arXiv:1005.3365 [pdf, ps, other]
Comments: Accepted for publication in A&A. 11 pages, 9 figures

Their abstract: "We use a long (300 ksec), continuous Suzaku X-ray observation of the active nucleus in NGC1365 to investigate the structure of the circumnuclear BLR clouds through their occultation of the X-ray source. The variations of the absorbing column density and of the covering factor indicate that the clouds surrounding the black hole are far from having a spherical geometry (as sometimes assumed), instead they have a strongly elongated and cometary shape, with a dense head (n=10^11 cm^-3) and an expanding, dissolving tail. We infer that the cometary tails must be longer than a few times 10^13 cm and their opening angle must be smaller than a few degrees. We suggest that the cometary shape may be a common feature of BLR clouds in general, but which has been difficult to recognize observationally so far. The cometary shape may originate from shocks and hydrodynamical instabilities generated by the supersonic motion of the BLR clouds into the intracloud medium. As a consequence of the mass loss into their tail, we infer that the BLR clouds probably have a lifetime of only a few months, implying that they must be continuously replenished. We also find a large, puzzling discrepancy (two orders of magnitude) between the mass of the BLR inferred from the properties of the absorbing clouds and the mass of the BLR inferred from photoionization models; we discuss the possible solutions to this discrepancy."

Adaptive optics near infrared integral field spectroscopy of NGC 2992
S. Friedrich, R. I. Davies, E. K. S. Hicks, H. Engel, F. Müller-Sánchez, R. Genzel, L. J. Tacconi, arXiv:1005.4791 [pdf, ps, other]
Comments: 10 pages, 8 figures, accepted for publication in A&amp;A

From their abstract: "NGC 2992 is an intermediate Seyfert 1 galaxy showing outflows on kilo parsec scales which might be due either to AGN or starburst activity. We therefore aim at investigating its central region for a putative starburst in the past and its connection to the AGN and the outflows. Observations were performed with the adaptive optics near infrared integral field spectrograph SINFONI on the VLT, complemented by longslit observations with ISAAC on the VLT, as well as N- and Q-band data from the Spitzer archive. The spatial and spectral resolutions of the SINFONI data are 50 pc and 83 km/s, respectively. ... A simple geometric model of two mutually inclined disks and an additional cone to describe an outflow was developed to explain the observed complex velocity field in H_2 1-0S(1). ... We find a starburst age of 40 Myr - 50 Myr from Br_gamma line diagnostics and the radio continuum; ongoing star formation can be excluded. Both the energetics and the timescales indicate that the outflows are driven by the AGN rather than the starburst. The complex velocity field observed in H_2 1-0S(1) in the central 450 pc can be explained by the superposition of the galaxy rotation and an outflow."


So, the questions remains - is there really an outflow on larger scales too?. The lack of clear cases of purely AGN-driven large scale winds really makes me doubt radiation-driven wind models.


Fading hard X-ray emission from the Galactic Centre molecular cloud Sgr B2
R. Terrier, G. Ponti, G. Belanger, A. Decourchelle, V. Tatischeff, A. Goldwurm, G. Trap, M. R. Morris, R. Warwick, arXiv:1005.4807 [pdf, ps, other]
Comments: Accepted for publication in ApJ. 10 pages, 5 figures

From their abstract: "The centre of our Galaxy harbours a 4 million solar mass black hole that is unusually quiet: its present X-ray luminosity is more than 10 orders of magnitude less than its Eddington luminosity. The observation of iron fluorescence and hard X-ray emission from some of the massive molecular clouds surrounding the Galactic Centre has been interpreted as an echo of a past flare. ... Here we report the observation of a clear decay of the hard X-ray emission from the molecular cloud Sgr B2 during the past 7 years thanks to more than 20 Ms of INTEGRAL exposure. The measured decay time is compatible with the light crossing time of the molecular cloud core . Such a short timescale rules out inverse bremsstrahlung by cosmic-ray ions as the origin of the X ray emission. We also obtained 2-100 keV broadband X-ray spectra by combining INTEGRAL and XMM-Newton data and compared them with detailed models of X-ray emission due to irradiation of molecular gas by (i) low-energy cosmic-ray electrons and (ii) hard X-rays. Both models can reproduce the data equally well, but the time variability constraints and the huge cosmic ray electron luminosity required to explain the observed hard X-ray emission strongly favor the scenario in which the diffuse emission of Sgr B2 is scattered and reprocessed radiation emitted in the past by Sgr A*. Using recent parallax measurements that place Sgr B2 in front of Sgr A*, we find that the period of intense activity of Sgr A* ended between 75 and 155 years ago."


Black Hole Mass, Host galaxy classification and AGN activity
Barry McKernan, K.E.Saavik Ford, Chris Reynolds, arXiv:1005.4907 [pdf, ps, other]
Comments: MNRAS accepted. 14 pages, 11 figures, complete Table 1 in online journal


Theoretical Cosmology

The intergalactic medium over the last 10 billion years I: Lyman alpha absorption and physical conditions
Romeel Davé, Benjamin D. Oppenheimer, Neal Katz, Juna A. Kollmeier, David H. Weinberg, arXiv:1005.2421 [pdf, ps, other]
Comments: 21 pages, submitted to MNRAS

Intergalactic Dust Extinction in Hydrodynamic Cosmological Simulations
Ying Zu, David H. Weinberg, Romeel Davé, Mark Fardal, Neal Katz, Dusan Keres, Benjamin D. Oppenheimer, arXiv:1005.4406 [pdf, ps, other]
Comments: 12 pages, 7 figures, to be submitted to MNRAS


Astrophysical Processes

Secondary ionization and heating by fast electrons
Steven R. Furlanetto and Samuel Johnson Stoever, 2010, MNRAS, 404, 1869
Full Text: HTML, PDF (Size: 720K)


Numerical Astrophysics and Computational Techniques

Searchable Sky Coverage of Astronomical Observations: Footprints and Exposures
Tamas Budavari, Alex Szalay, Gyorgy Fekete, arXiv:1005.2606 [pdf, other]
Comments: 11 pages, 7 figures, submitted to PASP

Their abstract: "Sky coverage is one of the most important pieces of information about astronomical observations. We discuss possible representations, and present algorithms to create and manipulate shapes consisting of generalized spherical polygons with arbitrary complexity and size on the celestial sphere. This shape specification integrates well with our Hierarchical Triangular Mesh indexing toolbox, whose performance and capabilities are enhanced by the advanced features presented here. Our portable implementation of the relevant spherical geometry routines comes with wrapper functions for database queries, which are currently being used within several scientific catalog archives including the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, the Galaxy Evolution Explorer and the Hubble Legacy Archive projects as well as the Footprint Service of the Virtual Observatory."

The Role of Provenance Management in Accelerating the Rate of Astronomical Research

G. Bruce Berriman, Ewa Deelman, arXiv:1005.3358 [pdf, other]
Comments: 8 pages, 1 figure; Proceedings of Science, 2010

Their abstract: "The availability of vast quantities of data through electronic archives has transformed astronomical research. It has also enabled the creation of new products, models and simulations, often from distributed input data and models, that are themselves made electronically available. These products will only provide maximal long-term value to astronomers when accompanied by records of their provenance; that is, records of the data and processes used in the creation of such products. We use the creation of image mosaics with the Montage grid-enabled mosaic engine to emphasize the necessity of provenance management and to understand the science requirements that higher-level products impose on provenance management technologies. We describe experiments with one technology, the "Provenance Aware Service Oriented Architecture" (PASOA), that stores provenance information at each step in the computation of a mosaic. The results inform the technical specifications of provenance management systems, including the need for extensible systems built on common standards. Finally, we describe examples of provenance management technology emerging from the fields of geophysics and oceanography that have applicability to astronomy applications."


Montage: a grid portal and software toolkit for science-grade astronomical image mosaicking
Joseph C. Jacob, et al, arXiv:1005.4454 [pdf, other]
Comments: 16 pages, 11 figures
Journal-ref: Int. J. Computational Science and Engineering. 2009

Their abstract: "Montage is a portable software toolkit for constructing custom, science-grade mosaics by composing multiple astronomical images. The mosaics constructed by Montage preserve the astrometry (position) and photometry (intensity) of the sources in the input images. The mosaic to be constructed is specified by the user in terms of a set of parameters, including dataset and wavelength to be used, location and size on the sky, coordinate system and projection, and spatial sampling rate. Many astronomical datasets are massive, and are stored in distributed archives that are, in most cases, remote with respect to the available computational resources. Montage can be run on both single- and multi-processor computers, including clusters and grids. Standard grid tools are used to run Montage in the case where the data or computers used to construct a mosaic are located remotely on the Internet. This paper describes the architecture, algorithms, and usage of Montage as both a software toolkit and as a grid portal. Timing results are provided to show how Montage performance scales with number of processors on a cluster computer. In addition, we compare the performance of two methods of running Montage in parallel on a grid."


Stars, Supernovae and Planets

Who Pulled the Trigger: a Supernova or an AGB Star?
Alan P. Boss, Sandra A. Keiser, arXiv:1005.3981 [pdf, ps, other]
Comments: 14 pages, 4 figures, 1 table, Astrophysical Journal Letters, in press

Their abstract: "The short-lived radioisotope $^{60}$Fe requires production in a core collapse supernova or AGB star immediately before its incorporation into the earliest solar system solids. Shock waves from a somewhat distant supernova, or a relatively nearby AGB star, have the right speeds to simultaneously trigger the collapse of a dense molecular cloud core and to inject shock wave material into the resulting protostar. A new set of FLASH2.5 adaptive mesh refinement hydrodynamical models shows that the injection efficiency depends sensitively on the assumed shock thickness and density. Supernova shock waves appear to be thin enough to inject the amount of shock wave material necessary to match the short-lived radioisotope abundances measured for primitive meteorites. Planetary nebula shock waves from AGB stars, however, appear to be too thick to achieve the required injection efficiencies. These models imply that a supernova pulled the trigger that led to the formation of our solar system. "


Herschel Observations of the W43 "mini-starburst"
J. Bally, et al, arXiv:1005.4092 [pdf, ps, other]
Comments: 5 pages, 3 figures, accepted for A&amp;A Special Issue

From their abstract: "Aims: To explore the infrared and radio properties of one of the closest Galactic starburst regions. Methods: Images obtained with the Herschel Space Observatory at wavelengths of 70, 160, 250, 350, and 500 microns using the PACS and SPIRE arrays are analyzed and compared with radio continuum VLA data and 8 micron images from the Spitzer Space Telescope. ... Results: The W43 star-forming complex is resolved into a dense cluster of protostars, infrared dark clouds, and ridges of warm dust heated by massive stars. The 4 brightest compact sources with L > 1.5 x 10^4 Lsun embedded within the Z-shaped ridge of bright dust emission in W43 remain single at 4" (0.1 pc) resolution. These objects, likely to be massive protostars or compact clusters in early stages of evolution are embedded in clumps with masses of 10^3 to 10^4 Msun, but contribute only 2% to the 3.6 x 10^6 Lsun far-IR luminosity of W43 measured in a 16 by 16 pc box. The total mass of gas derived from the far-IR dust emission inside this region is ~10^6 Msun. Cometary dust clouds, compact 6 cm radio sources, and warm dust mark the locations of older populations of massive stars. Energy release has created a cavity blowing-out below the Galactic plane."

I wish people would stop calling individual star forming regions, even the biggest ones, starbursts. The term starburst has historically been used to denote significantly enhanced star formation at a galactic scale, and makes most sense when used thusly. See, e.g. Heckman, T., 2005, A&SS, 329, 3.

Evolution of massive stars with pulsation-driven superwinds during the RSG phase
Sung-Chul Yoon, Matteo Cantiello, arXiv:1005.4925 [pdf, ps, other]
Comments: Accepted for publications in ApJ Letters

Interesting to note the significance of pulsation in driving these winds. They're not just steady dust-driven winds. Are there any cases of steady dust-driven winds?

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