The relationship between gas content and star formation rate in spiral galaxies. Comparing the local field with the Virgo cluster
Istituto di Fisica G. Occhialini, Universita' di Milano-Bicocca, Piazza della scienza 3, Milano, Italy
2 Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics, University of California, Santa Cruz, CA 95064, USA e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Accepted: 1 August 2008
Context. Despite many studies of star formation in spiral galaxies, a complete and coherent understanding of the physical processes that regulate the birth of stars has not yet been achieved, nor has unanymous consensus been reached, despite the many attempts, on the effects of the environment on the star formation in galaxy members of rich clusters.
Aims. We focus on the local and global Schmidt law and we investigate how cluster galaxies have their star formation activity perturbed.
Methods. We collect multifrequency imaging for a sample of spiral galaxies, members of the Virgo cluster and of the local field; we compute the surface density profiles for the young and for the bulk of the stellar components, for the molecular and for the atomic gas.
Results. Our analysis shows that the bulk of the star formation correlates with the molecular gas, but the atomic gas is important or even crucial in supporting the star formation activity in the outer part of the disks. Moreover, we show that cluster members that suffer from a moderate HI removal have their molecular component and their SFR quenched, while highly perturbed galaxies show an additional truncation in their star forming disks.
Conclusions. Our results are consistent with a model in which the atomic hydrogen is the fundamental fuel for the star formation, either directly or indirectly through the molecular phase; therefore galaxies whose HI reservoirs have been depleted suffer from starvation or even from truncation of their star formation activity.
Key words: Galaxy: evolution / galaxies: ISM / galaxies: spiral / galaxies: clusters: individual: Virgo / stars: formation
© ESO, 2008