Characterizing Precursors to Stellar Clusters with Herschel
Bally, J.; Ginsburg, A.; Bernard, J. -P.; Brunt, C.; Fuller, G. A.; Martin, P.; Molinari, S.; Mottram, J.; Peretto, N.; Testi, L.; Thompson, M. A.
Context: Despite their profound effect on the universe, the formation of massive stars and stellar clusters remains elusive. In the past decade, compelling evidence has emerged that suggests Infrared Dark Clouds (IRDCs) may be precursors to stellar clusters. However, the usual method for identifying IRDCs is biased by the requirement that they are seen in absorption against bright mid-IR emission, whereas dust continuum observations allow cold, dense pre-stellar-clusters to be identified anywhere. Aims: We aim to understand what physical properties characterize IRDCs, to explore the population of dust continuum sources that are not IRDCs, and to roughly characterize the star formation activity in dust continuum sources. Results: We present temperature and column density maps in the Hi-GAL l=30° and l=59° science demonstration phase fields, as well as a robust algorithm for cirrus subtraction and source identification using Hi-GAL. We report on the fraction of Hi-GAL sources which are mid-IR-dark, -neutral, or -bright in both fields. We find significant trends in column density and temperature between mid-IR-dark and -bright pixels; mid-IR-dark pixels are about 10 K colder and have a factor of 2 higher column density on average than mid-IR-bright pixels. We find that Hi-GAL dust continuum sources span a range of evolutionary states from pre- to star-forming, and that warmer sources are associated with more star formation tracers. There is a trend of increasing temperature with tracer type from mid-IR-dark at the coldest, to outflow/maser sources in the middle, and finally to 8 and 24 micron bright sources at the warmest. Finally, we identify five candidate IRDC-like sources on the far-side of the Galaxy. These are cold (~ 20 K), high column density (N(H2) > 1022 cm−2) clouds identified with Hi-GAL which, despite bright surrounding mid-IR emission, show little to no absorption at 8 micron