Dynamics and Star Formation in the Milky Way's Galactic Center

H Perry Hatchfield (UConn)
Friday, October 22, 2021 - 2:00pm to 3:00pm

The Galactic Center provides a unique opportunity to study star formation in an extreme environment, perhaps more representative of conditions in high-redshift galaxies.The innermost few hundred parsecs of the Galaxy contains an enormous reservoir of dense molecular gas known as the Central Molecular Zone (CMZ), but despite having copious fuel to form stars, the star formation rate is an order of magnitude lower than expected. The complexity and variety of CMZ clouds presents a challenge in pinning down the relationship between environment and cloud evolution, a challenge that must be answered by highly complete surveys as well as simulations covering a wide range of physical scales. I will present results from the SMA large program, CMZoom, as well as recent hydrodynamic simulations in order to explore the cloud-to-cloud variation of gas properties and star formation throughout the CMZ. I discuss the design and results of the CMZoom 1.3mm dust continuum catalog, and my investigation of the physical conditions that correlate with the presence of star formation in this extreme environment. I will also present our dynamically-motivated simulations of the CMZ, using which I predict the mass inflow rate towards the Galactic Center and study the impact of the Galactic Bar on the properties and evolution of clouds in the CMZ. My results highlight the importance of the large-scale dynamical environment for the formation of stars, and I will discuss plans to expand our understanding of the CMZ with upcoming multi-wavelength observational efforts and high resolution zoom simulations.

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