Speaker: Kyle Westfall
Star-formation is driven by the collapse of dynamically unstable gas clouds. The details of this process are complicated by the many physical forces involved (thermal, turbulent, magnetic, gravitational) and the scales on which the process may be regulated (ranging from sub-parsec to galactic). Despite this, the global (and in some cases local) star-formation rate of galaxies follows well-defined empirical scaling relations. A seminal example is the Kennicutt-Schmidt law, which correlates the surface densities of the gas and star-formation rate. Here, I will discuss our recent paper aimed at understanding the influence of the local gravitational potential on the star-formation process via assessments of the stellar mass surface density and the disk stability criterion. The uniqueness of this study lies in the fact that we have measured these quantities dynamically, whereas previous studies have relied on, e.g., assessments of the stellar mass using stellar-population-synthesis modeling. Our results, showing the star-formation rate surface density is correlated with the stellar mass surface density and anti-correlated with the disk stability, are consistent with expectations of both analytic theoretical models and numerical simulations.