Dissertation: The Effects of Environment on the Atomic and Molecular Gas Properties of Star-Forming Galaxies

(Cassiopeia – Autumn/l’automne 2017)


by Angus King Fai Mok
Thesis defended on July 31, 2017
Department of Physics and Astronomy, McMaster University
Thesis advisor: Dr. Christine Wilson

Where a galaxy is located has a strong effect on its properties. The dense cluster environment is home to a large population of red, quiescent elliptical galaxies, whereas blue, star-forming, spiral galaxies are common in lower-density environments. This difference is intricately linked to the ability of the galaxy to form new stars and therefore ultimately to the fuel for star formation, the atomic and molecular gas. In this thesis, I use two large JCMT surveys to explore the effects of environment on the atomic gas, molecular gas, and star formation properties of a large sample of nearby gas-rich galaxies.

From the NGLS and follow-up studies, I select a sub-sample of 98 HI-flux selected spiral galaxies. I measure their total molecular gas mass using the CO J=3-2 line and combine this data with measurements of their total atomic gas mass using the 21-cm line and star formation rate using attenuation-corrected H-alpha luminosity. I find an enhancement in the mean H2 mass and a higher H2-to-HI ratio for the Virgo Cluster sample. Virgo Cluster galaxies also have longer molecular gas depletion times (H2/SFR), which suggests that they are forming stars at a lower rate relative to their molecular gas reservoirs than non-Virgo galaxies.

Next, I collect VLA 21 cm line maps from the VIVA survey and follow-up VLA studies of selected galaxies in the NGLS. I measure the surface density maps of the atomic gas, molecular gas, and star formation rate in order to determine radial trends. I find that the H2 distribution is enhanced near the centre for Virgo Cluster galaxies, along with a steeper total gas (HI + H2) radial profile. I suggest that this is due to the effects of moderate ram pressure stripping, which would strip away low-density gas in the outskirts while enhancing high-density gas near the centre. There are no trends with radius for the molecular gas depletion times, but the longer depletion times for the Virgo Cluster sample is still present.

Finally, I use 850 micron continuum observations for 105 star-forming galaxies and CO J=2-1 line observations for 35 galaxies in the initial data release (DR1) of the JINGLE survey. I match the JINGLE galaxies to a SDSS group catalogue and measure environmental parameters such as the host halo mass, environment density, and location in phase space. I find that the molecular gas masses estimated from the 850 micron and CO J=2-1 line observations are well-correlated. The H2-to-HI ratio and the molecular gas depletion times do not appear to vary with stellar mass. I did not find any significant variation with environment in the DR1 sample, but I will apply this framework to the full JINGLE sample once the complete dataset is available.

Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.