Effects of CO-dark Gas on Measurements of Molecular Cloud Stability and the Size-Linewidth Relationship

Theo J. O'Neill, Rémy Indebetouw, Alberto D. Bolatto, Suzanne C. Madden, Tony Wong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Stars form within molecular clouds, so characterizing the physical states of molecular clouds is key to understanding the process of star formation. Cloud structure and stability are frequently assessed using metrics including the virial parameter and Larson scaling relationships between cloud radius, velocity dispersion, and surface density. Departures from the typical Galactic relationships between these quantities have been observed in low-metallicity environments. The amount of H2 gas in cloud envelopes without corresponding CO emission is expected to be high under these conditions; therefore, this CO-dark gas could plausibly be responsible for the observed variations in cloud properties. We derive simple corrections that can be applied to empirical clump properties (mass, radius, velocity dispersion, surface density, and virial parameter) to account for CO-dark gas in clumps following power-law and Plummer mass density profiles. We find that CO-dark gas is not likely to be the cause of departures from Larson's relationships in low-metallicity regions, but that virial parameters may be systematically overestimated. We demonstrate that correcting for CO-dark gas is critical for accurately comparing the dynamical state and evolution of molecular clouds across diverse environments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number179
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 1 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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