The Large Magellanic Cloud's Largest Molecular Cloud Complex: Spitzer Analysis of Embedded Star Formation

Indebetouw, R., Whitney, B. A., Kawamura, A., Onishi, T., Meixner, M., Meade, M. R., Babler, B. L., Hora, J. L., Gordon, K., Engelbracht, C., Block, M., & Misselt, K.
2008, The Astronomical Journal, 136, 1442

We present a mid-infrared analysis of star-formation activity in the Large Magellanic Cloud's molecular ridge (south of 30 Doradus). The Magellanic Clouds are a rare laboratory in which extragalactic star-formation diagnostics can be tested at high spatial resolution. The southern part of the molecular ridge is particularly interesting as a potential extreme in the range of molecular cloud conditions, because of the apparent paucity (in optical tracers) of star formation compared to its gas mass. Our Spitzer observations are sensitive to protostars gsim3 M sun, and we estimate a total star-formation luminosity of 5 × 106 L sun in 2 × 106 M sun of molecular material. Detailed modeling of individual infrared-detected star-formation regions yields a total mass of star formation in the region consistent with that predicted by the gas surface density via the Schmitt-Kennicutt relation. The star-formation activity is distributed in rather low-luminosity regions, so the total star-formation rate determined by our infrared analysis is higher than would be predicted simply by the total Hα and 24 μm luminosities. Detailed analysis in very nearby galaxies, like the Magellanic Clouds, allows us to test and better understand the scaling relations used in unresolved and distant star-formation regions. Finally, we analyze the star-formation regions in the context of their individual molecular clouds and find that clouds with a higher ratio of CO mass to virial mass are more vigorously forming stars.


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