Comparing Giant Molecular Clouds in M31, M33 & the Milky Way Academic Article uri icon

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abstract

  • We present new observations of a 2' field in the north-eastern spiral arm of M31. In the 0.8 x 3.6 kpc mosaicked region, we have detected six distinct, large complexes of molecular gas, most of which lie along the spiral arm dust lane or in the vicinity of HII regions. The mean properties of these complexes are as follows: diameter ~ 57+/-13 pc, fwhm velocity ~ 6.5+/-1.2 km/s, M(CO) ~ 3.0+/-1.6 x 10^5 solar masses, peak brightness temperatures ~ 1.6--4.2 K. We investigate the effects of spatial filtering on the quantitative comparison of Local Group and Milky Way giant molecular clouds properties and distributions. We also discuss different cloud identification techniques and their impact on derived cloud properties. When we employ the same cloud identification method and account for differences in data acquisition for M31, Milky Way, and M33, we find that the molecular cloud complexes in all three galaxies are similar. While the global distribution of molecular gas may vary from galaxy to galaxy, cloud complexes are similar, suggesting that cloud formation and destruction is determined by local physics. This work is supported by grants AST-9613716 & AST-9981289 from the National Science Foundation.