Connecting dense gas tracers of star formation in our galaxy to high-z star formation

Jingwen Wu, Neal J. Evans, Yu Gao, Philip M. Solomon, Yancy L. Shirley, Paul A. Vanden Bout

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

283 Scopus citations


Observations have revealed prodigious amounts of star formation in starburst galaxies as traced by dust and molecular emission, even at large redshifts. Recent work shows that for both nearby spiral galaxies and distant starbursts, the global star formation rate, as indicated by the infrared luminosity, has a tight and almost linear correlation with the amount of dense gas as traced by the luminosity of HCN. Our surveys of Galactic dense cores in HCN 1-0 emission show that this correlation continues to a much smaller scale, with nearly the same ratio of infrared luminosity to HCN luminosity found over 7-8 orders of magnitude in LIR, with a lower cutoff around 10 4.5 L of infrared luminosity. The linear correlation suggests that we may understand distant star formation in terms of the known properties of local star-forming regions. Both the correlation and the luminosity cutoff can be explained if the basic unit of star formation in galaxies is a dense core, similar to those studied in our Galaxy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)L173-L176
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2 II
StatePublished - Dec 20 2005


  • ISM: molecules
  • Stars: formation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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