The fine-scale structure of the neutral interstellar medium in nearby galaxies

I. Bagetakos, E. Brinks, F. Walter, W.J.G. de Blok, A. Usero, A. Leroy, J.W. Rich, R.C. Kennicutt

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We present an analysis of the properties of H I holes detected in 20 galaxies that are part of "The H I Nearby Galaxy Survey." We detected more than 1000 holes in total in the sampled galaxies. Where they can be measured, their sizes range from about 100 pc (our resolution limit) to about 2 kpc, their expansion velocities range from 4 to 36 km s-1, and their ages are estimated to range between 3 and 150 Myr. The holes are found throughout the disks of the galaxies, out to the edge of the H I disk; 23% of the holes fall outside R 25. We find that shear limits the age of holes in spirals (shear is less important in dwarf galaxies) which explains why H I holes in dwarfs are rounder, on average than in spirals. Shear, which is particularly strong in the inner part of spiral galaxies, also explains why we find that holes outside R 25 are larger and older. We derive the scale height of the H I disk as a function of galactocentric radius and find that the disk flares up in all galaxies. We proceed to derive the surface and volume porosity (Q 2D and Q 3D) and find that this correlates with the type of the host galaxy: later Hubble types tend to be more porous. The size distribution of the holes in our sample follows a power law with a slope of a ν ~ –2.9. Assuming that the holes are the result of massive star formation (SF), we derive values for the supernova rate and star formation rate (SFR) which scales with the SFR derived based on other tracers. If we extrapolate the observed number of holes to include those that fall below our resolution limit, down to holes created by a single supernova, we find that our results are compatible with the hypothesis that H I holes result from SF.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)23-58
JournalThe Astronomical Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • galaxies: ISM
  • galaxies: structure
  • ISM: bubbles
  • ISM: structure


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