Turbulence et instabilité thermique du milieu interstellaire atomique neutre : une approche numérique

Abstract : One of the main current questions in Astrophysics is the understanding of the star formation process, directly related to the processes involved in the cooling and the condensation of the gas yielding to intricate filamentary structures of molecular clouds. Thermal instability and turbulence are playing dominant roles in this complex dynamics. The work presented here is focused on the evolution of the atomic and diffuse interstellar medium that provides the initial conditions to the formation of molecular clouds and is based on the comparison of hydrodynamical numerical simulations and observations. To understand the roles of thermal instability and turbulence in the WNM (warm neutral medium, T ~ 8000 K, n = 0.5 cm-³) to CNM (cold neutral medium, T ~ 80 K, n = 50 cm-³) transition, I produced 90 hydrodynamical numerical simulations of thermally bistable HI and used them to study the impact of the WNM initial density and the compressibility of the turbulent stirring on the efficiency of the CNM production. The main result here is that the warm gas in the observed turbulent conditions do not transit naturally to cold gas whatever the amplitude of turbulent motions. These small resolution simulations also allowed me to determine which initial conditions lead to the reproduction of the observed properties, as the Mach number, the amount of CNM or the amplitude of the turbulent motions. A compression is needed to trigger this transition either by increasing the initial density (n ≥ 1.5 cm-³) or by stirring with a compressive field. These initial conditions have been used to produce two high resolution simulations (1024³). I showed that these two simulations reproduce well the properties of the turbulence and the thermal instability. The temperature histograms present the evidences of a bistable gas and the pressure distributions are in agreement with the observations. On the other hand, the power spectra of the density are characteristic of a high contrasted medium while the power spectra of the velocity remain characteristic of subsonic turbulence. Finally the cold structures of these two simulations reproduce well the mass-size and velocity dispersion-size relations observed in molecular clouds. This suggests that the molecular cloud structure could be inherited from the clouds of atomic gas from which they are born. One of the main limitations in the analysis of observations comes from the fact that it can only be done on integrated quantities in two dimensions. In the last part of my work I compared the two high resolution simulations to observations by creating synthetic 21 cm observations. The emission spectra and column density maps produced in that way are similar to the ones observed. Besides, with the three dimensional informations, I was able to study the effect of the self-absorption in the creation of the column density maps from the brightness temperature spectra. I concluded from this study that the self-absorption cannot be neglected but that it only concerns the brightest and densest lines of sight and that the correction usually applied on observations is efficient. Finally I applied a method of gaussian decomposition on the synthetic spectra. This method has been build to study the properties of each thermal phase in the HI. The results show that it is a highly promising method for the analysis of 21 cm spectro-imaging data even if some improvements are needed. Indeed, it allows a good separation of the cold and warm phases of the atomic medium and a reasonable deduction of the massive distribution of each one.
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Eléonore Saury. Turbulence et instabilité thermique du milieu interstellaire atomique neutre : une approche numérique. Autre. Université Paris Sud - Paris XI, 2012. Français. ⟨NNT : 2012PA112107⟩. ⟨tel-00784196⟩

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