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Clare Louise Dobbs- The Formation of Molecular Clouds in Spiral Galaxies

Clare Louise Dobbs- The Formation of Molecular Clouds in Spiral Galaxies

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The Formation of Molecular Clouds in Spiral GalaxiesClare Louise Dobbs
University of St AndrewsSubmitted for the degree of Ph.D.February 15, 2007
 
DECLARATION
I, Clare Louise Dobbs, hereby certify that this thesis, which is approximately 45,000 wordsin length, has been written by me, that it is the record of work carried out by me andthat it has not been submitted in any previous application for a higher degree.February 15, 2007I was admitted as a research student in October 2003 and as a candidate for the degree of PhD in October 2003; the higher study for which this is a record was carried out in theUniversity of St Andrews between 2003 and 2006.February 15, 2007In submitting this thesis to the University of St Andrews I understand that I am givingpermission for it to be made available for use in accordance with the regulations of theUniversity Library for the time being in force, subject to any copyright vested in thework not being affected thereby. I also understand that the title and abstract will bepublished, and that a copy of the work may be made and supplied to any bona fide libraryor research worker, that my thesis will be electronically accessible for personal or researchuse, and that the library has the right to migrate my thesis into new electronic formsas required to ensure continued access to the thesis. I have obtained any third-partycopyright permissions that may be required in order to allow such access and migration.February 15, 2007I hereby certify that the candidate has fulfilled the conditions of the Resolution and Reg-ulations appropriate for the degree of Ph.D. in the University of St Andrews and that thecandidate is qualified to submit this thesis in application for that degree.February 15, 2007i
 
THE UNIVERSITY OF ST. ANDREWS
Clare Louise DobbsSubmitted for the degree of Ph.D.February 15, 2007University of St Andrews
ABSTRACT
Molecular clouds are imperative to astronomy as the sites of all known star formation. Theproblem of how molecular clouds are formed in spiral galaxies is approached numerically,by modelling the response of a gas disk to a spiral potential. The importance of spiralshocks is highlighted as a dominant formation mechanism for molecular clouds in granddesign galaxies, where a strong density wave is present. The spiral shock both increasesthe density of the interstellar gas significantly, and produces structure in the spiral arms.The gas evolves into discrete clumps, which are shown to contain substantial densities of molecular hydrogen, and are therefore identified as molecular clouds. The formation of these clouds requires that the interstellar medium (ISM) is cold and inhomogeneous. Thepassage of an inhomogeneous gas distribution through a spiral potential further showsthat supersonic velocities are induced as the gas shocks. This can explain the velocitydispersion relation observed in molecular clouds. Finally, the shearing of clumps of gasin the spiral arms leads to the formation of inter-arm structures, which are commonlyobserved in spiral galaxies.ii

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