Spitzer View of Massive Star Formation in the Tidally Stripped Magellanic Bridge

Chen, C.-H. Rosie, Indebetouw, Remy, Muller, Erik, Kawamura, Akiko, Gordon, Karl D., Sewiło, Marta, Whitney, Barbara A., Fukui, Yasuo, Madden, Suzanne C., Meade, Marilyn R., Meixner, Margaret, Oliveira, Joana M., Robitaille, Thomas P., Seale, Jonathan P., Shiao, Bernie, & van Loon, Jacco Th.
2014, The Astrophysical Journal, 785, 162

The Magellanic Bridge is the nearest low-metallicity, tidally stripped environment, offering a unique high-resolution view of physical conditions in merging and forming galaxies. In this paper, we present an analysis of candidate massive young stellar objects (YSOs), i.e., in situ, current massive star formation (MSF) in the Bridge using Spitzer mid-IR and complementary optical and near-IR photometry. While we definitely find YSOs in the Bridge, the most massive are ~10 M ⊙, Lt45 M ⊙ found in the LMC. The intensity of MSF in the Bridge also appears to be decreasing, as the most massive YSOs are less massive than those formed in the past. To investigate environmental effects on MSF, we have compared properties of massive YSOs in the Bridge to those in the LMC. First, YSOs in the Bridge are apparently less embedded than in the LMC: 81% of Bridge YSOs show optical counterparts, compared to only 56% of LMC sources with the same range of mass, circumstellar dust mass, and line-of-sight extinction. Circumstellar envelopes are evidently more porous or clumpy in the Bridge's low-metallicity environment. Second, we have used whole samples of YSOs in the LMC and the Bridge to estimate the probability of finding YSOs at a given H I column density, N(H I). We found that the LMC has ~3 × higher probability than the Bridge for N(H I) >12 × 1020 cm-2, but the trend reverses at lower N(H I). Investigating whether this lower efficiency relative to H I is due to less efficient molecular cloud formation or to less efficient cloud collapse, or to both, will require sensitive molecular gas observations.


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