This project has received the bulk of our effort over the past 12 months. We have been running 127 million particle SPH runs of a spiral shock to study the formation of molecular clouds and establish the first self-consistent initial conditions for simulations of star formation. These simulations follow the formation of molecular clouds along a 4kpc length of a spiral arm with a total mass of 20 million solar masses and can resolve the formation of self-gravitating structures down to 10 solar masses. We have been studying the importance of the thermal physics in triggering star formation as well as several tests to ensure that the dynamics of the shocked regions are properly captured. A companion study using grid-based simulations has been completed which investigates the dynamics of single clouds entering into a spiral arm. This study showed that the gravitational potential, plus shock induced hydrodynamical instabilities, can drive turbulence into the cloud. This re-enforces the conclusions from our Smoothed Particle Hydrodynamics simulations.
We are now developing full galactic models of the ISM including live potentials. This work will form a significant part of our simulation work in 2015.
The Galactic Centre:
We have concluded studies on star formation in the Galactic centre and have expanded our scope to study the dynamics of the Central Molecular Zone including the “Moilinari” ring. These simulations show how a single cloud can reproduce the overall features. A detailed comparison with observations is ongoing. We have also used larger scale simulations of the inner 500pc of the galaxy to study how the non-axisymmetric structures combine with infalling gas interact, in order to probe the relationship between the CMZ and the inner star formation activity.