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Content archived on 2024-06-20

Galactic molecular clouds and star formation


The study of star formation defines a central theme in modern astrophysics with relevance across the entire field, from the origins of our own Solar System and other, possibly similar systems, to the formation of the earliest galaxies in the Universe.

In the next year a suite of revolutionary instruments, including the SCUBA-2 submillimetre array and the HARP-B submm heterodyne array, will begin operations on the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (JCMT). A number of international collaborations will pursue JCMT Legacy Surveys with these instruments, thereby opening up the poorly-known submm sky to systematic study for the first time and providing the first comprehensive submm survey of star formation throughout our Galaxy.

New high velocity resolution surveys of the 12CO and 13CO 1-0 lines from the Five College Radio Astronomy Observatory (FCRAO) 14m telescope have also recently been completed. FCRAO surveys now provide contiguous sub-arcminute resolution mapping of the Northern Milky Way from l=18 to l=192, while targeted FCRAO observations are available for many of the Gould's Belt clouds.

At Exeter, we will perform fundamental analysis of the FCRAO and JCMT molecular line data to produce the most detailed database of molecular gas in our Galaxy yet assembled, in the form of cross-linked molecular cloud and submm ore catalogues. This will benefit the entire star formation community and establish a firm foundation for a comprehensive analysis of the JCMT Legacy data.

Aside from providing kinematic distance information, spectral line data from the CO lines observed by JCMT and FCRAO probe the molecular gas substrate from which the starless and protostellar core population are forming, and define the mass, and structure, of raw material available for star formation, as well as trace its dynamical state.

Using these JCMT and FCRAO data, we will, in addition, carry out research to quantify key physical processes that control star formation in molecular clouds.

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Northcote House, The Queen's Drive
United Kingdom

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