SCYON Abstract

Received on July 19 2001

Some Constraints on The Formation of Globular Clusters

AuthorsKeith M. Ashman (1), Stephen E. Zepf (2)
Affiliation1 Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS 66045
and Department of Physics, Baker University, Baldwin, KS 66006;
2 Department of Astronomy, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06520
Accepted byAstronomical Journal


We explore the constraints on globular cluster formation provided by the observed conditions in starbursts where globulars are currently forming, and by the observed properties of young and old globular clusters. We note that the pressure in the ISM of starbursts and mergers implies that molecular clouds in these environments have radii similar to those of globular clusters. Such molecular clouds are therefore viable precursors to globular clusters if the star formation efficiency in the clouds is high. A high star formation efficiency may be a consequence of the high density and associated high binding energy and short dynamical timescale of molecular clouds in such environments.

We also note that the apparent lack of a mass-radius relationship in young and old globular cluster systems places important constraints on globular cluster formation models. This is because molecular clouds are observed to follow a virial scaling relation between mass and radius.

We suggest that a variable star formation efficiency may weaken or eliminate the mass-radius relation of molecular clouds as they fragment to form globular clusters. We attribute the absence of young globular clusters in the disks of ordinary galaxies such as the Milky Way to the relatively low ambient pressures in such systems.