Ionization impact on molecular clouds and star formation Numerical simulations and observations

Abstract : At all the scales of Astrophysics, the impact of the ionization from massive stars is a crucial issue. At the galactic scale, the ionization can regulate star formation by supporting molecular clouds against gravitational collapse and at the stellar scale, indications point toward a possible birth place of the Solar System close to massive stars. At the molecular cloud scale, it is clear that the hot ionized gas compresses the surrounding cold gas, leading to the formation of pillars, globules, and shells of dense gas in which some young stellar objects are observed. What are the formation mechanisms of these structures? Are the formation of these young stellar objects triggered or would have they formed anyway? Do massive stars have an impact on the distribution of the surrounding gas? Do they have an impact on the mass distribution of stars (the initial mass function, IMF)? This thesis aims at shedding some light on these questions, by focusing especially on the formation of the structures between the cold and the ionized gas. We present the state of the art of the theoretical and observational works on ionized regions (H ii regions) and we introduce the numerical tools that have been developed to model the ionization in the hydrodynamic simulations with turbulence performed with the HERACLES code. Thanks to the simulations, we present a new model for the formation of pillars based on the curvature and collapse of the dense shell on itself and a new model for the formations of cometary globules based on the turbulence of the cold gas. Several diagnostics have been developed to test these new models in the observations. If pillars are formed by the collapse of the dense shell on itself, the velocity spectrum of a nascent pillar presents a large spectra with a red-shifted and a blue-shifted components that are caused by the foreground and background parts of the shell that collapse along the line of sight. If cometary globules emerge because of the turbulence of the molecular cloud, the velocity spectrum of these globules is shifted at different velocities than the velocity of the shell, pillars and clumps that follow the global expansion of the H ii region. An other diagnostic is the impact of the compression on the probability density function (PDF) of the cold gas. The distribution is double peaked when the turbulent ram pressure is low compared to the ionized-gas pressure. This is the signature of the compression caused by the expansion of the ionized bubble. When the turbulence is high, the two peaks merge and the compression can still be identified although the signature is less clear. We have used Herschel column density maps and molecular-line data to characterize the density and velocity structures of the interface between the ionized and the cold gas in several regions: RCW 120, RCW 36, Cygnus X, the Rosette and Eagle Nebulae. In addition to the diagnostics derived from the simulations, analytical predictions of the shell and pillar parameters was tested and confronted to the observations. In all the regions, we have seen that there is a good agreement with the analytical models and with the simulation diagnostics. The velocity structure of a nascent pillar in the Rosette Nebula suggests that it has been formed by the collapse of the shell on itself and the bulk velocity of cometary globules in Cygnus X and in the Rosette Nebula tends to confirm their turbulent origin. The compression caused by the ionized gas can be seen on the PDF of the cold gas in most of the regions studied. This result is important for the link between the IMF and the global properties of the cloud. If the IMF can be derived from the PDF of a cloud, the impact of the massive stars on the PDF has to be taken in account. Furthermore, we present dedicated simulations of RCW 36 that suggest that the dense clumps at the edge of the ionized gas are not pre-existing, it is likely that their formation was triggered by the compression caused by the ionization. Therefore the ionization from the massive stars is a key process that has to be taken into account for the understanding of the IMF. We also present in appendix other works that have been done in parallel of this thesis: the charge exchange in colliding planetary and stellar winds in collaboration with Prof. E. Chiang during the ISIMA summer school 2011 in Beijing; and the sub-millimeter site testing at the Concordia station in Antarctica with the CAMISTIC team (PI: G. Durand).
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Submitted on : Thursday, May 9, 2013 - 6:37:07 PM
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Pascal Tremblin. Ionization impact on molecular clouds and star formation Numerical simulations and observations. Solar and Stellar Astrophysics [astro-ph.SR]. Université Paris-Diderot - Paris VII, 2012. English. ⟨tel-00786668v2⟩

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