First Resolved Dust Continuum Measurements of Individual Giant Molecular Clouds in the Andromeda Galaxy

Jan Forbrich, Charles J. Lada, Sébastien Viaene, Glen Petitpas

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In our local Galactic neighborhood, molecular clouds are best studied using a combination of dust measurements, to determine robust masses, sizes, and internal structures of the clouds, and molecular-line observations to determine cloud kinematics and chemistry. We present here the first results of a program designed to extend such studies to nearby galaxies beyond the Magellanic Clouds. Utilizing the wideband upgrade of the Submillimeter Array (SMA) at 230 GHz, we have obtained the first continuum detections of the thermal dust emission on sub-GMC scales (∼15 pc) within the Andromeda galaxy (M31). These include the first resolved continuum detections of dust emission from individual giant molecular clouds (GMCs) beyond the Magellanic Clouds. Utilizing a powerful capability of the SMA, we simultaneously recorded CO(2-1) emission with identical (u, v) coverage, astrometry, and calibration, enabling the first measurements of the CO conversion factor, α CO(2-1), toward individual GMCs across an external galaxy. Our direct measurement yields an average CO-to-dust mass conversion factor of α' CO-dust = 0.042 ± 0.018 M o (K km s -1 pc 2) -1 for the J = 2-1 transition. This value does not appear to vary with galactocentric radius. Assuming a constant gas-to-dust ratio of 136, the resulting α CO = 5.7 ± 2.4 M o (K km s -1 pc 2) -1 for the 2-1 transition is in excellent agreement with that of GMCs in the Milky Way, given the uncertainties. Finally, using the same analysis techniques, we compare our results with observations of the local Orion molecular clouds, placed at the distance of M31 and simulated to appear as they would if observed by the SMA.

Original languageEnglish
Article number42
Number of pages9
JournalThe Astrophysical Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 11 Feb 2020


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