Are Galaxies Optically Thin to Their Own Lyman-Continuum Radiation? I. M33 Academic Article uri icon

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abstract

  • Halpha and UBV photometry of the inner kpc of M33 are used to study the distribution of OB stars and HII regions in the galaxy and to determine whether individual regions of the galaxy are in a state of ionization balance. Based on the surface brightness of the Halpha emission, we identify three distinct ionized gas environments (bright, halo and field). We find that 50% of the OB stars are located in the field, so that 1/2 of the lifetime of OB stars must be spent outside recognizable HII regions. If OB stars escape from bright HII regions by destroying their parent molecular clouds, this result would imply that molecular cloud lifetimes after forming OB stars could be as low as 5e6 yrs or 1/2 the typical lifetime of OB stars. Halpha fluxes predicted from ionization models reveal that none of the regions are in ionization balance: predicted fluxes are a factor of 3-7 greater than observed. The heaviest loss of ionizing photons appears to be taking place in the field. Our results suggest that star formation rates obtained from Halpha luminosities must underestimate the true star formation rate in these regions of M33.

publication date

  • October 1995