Gas density, stability, and starbursts near the inner lindblad resonance of the milky way

Antony A. Stark, Christopher L. Martin, Wilfred M. Walsh, Kecheng Xiao, Adair P. Lane, Christopher K. Walker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


A key project of the Antarctic Submillimeter Telescope and Remote Observatory reported by Martin et al. is the mapping of CO J = 4 → 3 and J = 7 → 6 emission from the inner Milky Way, allowing determination of gas density and temperature. Galactic center gas that Binney et al. identify as being on x2 orbits has a density near 103.5 cm 3, which renders it only marginally stable against gravitational coagulation into a few giant molecular clouds, as discussed by Elmegreen. This suggests a relaxation oscillator mechanism for starbursts in the Milky Way, whereby inflowing gas accumulates in a ring at 150 pc radius until the critical density is reached and the resulting instability leads to the sudden formation of giant clouds and the deposition of 4 × 107 M of gas onto the Galactic center. Depending on the accretion rate near the inner Lindblad resonance, this cycle will repeat with a timescale of order 20 Myr.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)L41-L44
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1 II
StatePublished - Oct 10 2004


  • Galaxies: Starburst
  • Galaxy: Structure
  • ISM: Clouds
  • ISM: Molecules
  • Stars: Formation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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