Feeding vs Falling. The growth and collapse of molecular clouds in a turbulent interstellar medium
In order to understand the origin of observed molecular cloud properties, it is critical to understand how clouds interact with their environments during their formation, growth and collapse. It has been suggested that accretion-driven turbulence can maintain clouds in a highly turbulent state, prevent- ing runaway collapse, and explaining the observed non-thermal velocity dispersions. We present 3D, adaptive-mesh-refinement (AMR), magnetohydrodynamics (MHD) simulations of a kiloparsec-scale, stratified, supernova-driven, self-gravitating, interstellar medium, including diffuse heating and radia- tive cooling. These simulations model the formation and evolution of a molecular cloud population in the turbulent interstellar medium. We use zoom-in techniques to focus on the dynamics of the mass accretion and its history for individual molecular clouds. We find that mass accretion onto molecular clouds proceeds as a combination of turbulent flow and near free-fall accretion of a gravitationally bound envelope. Nearby supernova explosions have a dual role, compressing the envelope, increasing mass accretion rates, but also disrupting parts of the envelope and eroding mass from the cloud’s surface. It appears that the inflow rate of kinetic energy onto clouds from supernova explosions is in- sufficient to explain the net rate of change of the cloud kinetic energy. In the absence of self-consistent star formation, conversion of gravitational potential into kinetic energy during contraction seems to be the main driver of non-thermal motions within clouds. We conclude that although clouds interact strongly with their environments, bound clouds are always in a state of gravitational contraction, close to runaway, and their properties are a natural result of this collapse.
Interstellar medium, turbulence, molecular clouds, magnetohydrodynamics