Characterizing the 3D structure of molecular cloud envelopes in the Cloud Factory simulations

Elijah Mullens, Catherine Zucker, Claire E. Murray, Rowan Smith

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Abstract

We leverage recent numerical simulations of highly resolved star-forming regions in a Milky Way–like galaxy to explore the nature of extended gaseous envelopes around molecular clouds. We extract a sample of two dozen star-forming clouds from the feedback-dominated suite of Cloud Factory simulations. With the goal of exploring the 3D thermal and chemical structure of the gas, we measure and fit the clouds' radial profiles with multiple tracers, including nH1, nH2, NHtot, nCO, and gas temperature. We find that while solar neighborhood clouds recently detected via 3D dust mapping have radially symmetric, low-density envelopes that extend ∼10–15 pc, the simulated cloud envelopes are primarily radially asymmetric with low-density envelopes that extend only ∼2–3 pc. One potential explanation for the absence of extended envelopes in the simulated clouds may be the lack of magnetic fields, while a stronger local feedback prescription compared to solar neighborhood conditions may drive the radially asymmetric cloud morphologies. We make the pipeline used to extract and characterize the radial profiles of the clouds publicly available, which can be used in complementary and future simulations to shed additional light on the key physics shaping the formation and evolution of star-forming structures in the Milky Way.
Original languageEnglish
Article number127
Number of pages17
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Volume966
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2 May 2024

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