Tidal stability of giant molecular clouds in the large magellanic cloud

E. Thilliez, S. T. Maddison, A. Hughes, T. Wong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Star formation does not occur until the onset of gravitational collapse inside giant molecular clouds. However, the conditions that initiate cloud collapse and regulate the star formation process remain poorly understood. Local processes such as turbulence and magnetic fields can act to promote or prevent collapse. On larger scales, the galactic potential can also influence cloud stability and is traditionally assessed by the tidal and shear effects. In this paper, we examine the stability of giant molecular clouds (GMCs) in the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) against shear and the galactic tide using CO data from the Magellanic Mopra Assessment (MAGMA) and rotation curve data from the literature. We calculate the tidal acceleration experienced by individual GMCs and determine the minimum cloud mass required for tidal stability. We also calculate the shear parameter, which is a measure of a cloud's susceptibility to disruption via shearing forces in the galactic disk. We examine whether there are correlations between the properties and star forming activity of GMCs and their stability against shear and tidal disruption. We find that the GMCs are in approximate tidal balance in the LMC, and that shear is unlikely to affect their further evolution. GMCs with masses close to the minimal stable mass against tidal disruption are not unusual in terms of their mass, location, or CO brightness, but we note that GMCs with large velocity dispersion tend to be more sensitive to tidal instability. We also note that GMCs with smaller radii, which represent the majority of our sample, tend to more strongly resist tidal and shear disruption. Our results demonstrate that star formation in the LMC is not inhibited by to tidal or shear instability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere003
JournalPublications of the Astronomical Society of Australia
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2013


  • instabilities-ISM: clouds-Magellanic Clouds-stars: formation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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