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The evolution of the star-forming interstellar medium across cosmic time

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Tacconi,  Linda J.
Infrared and Submillimeter Astronomy, MPI for Extraterrestrial Physics, Max Planck Society;

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Genzel,  Reinhard
Infrared and Submillimeter Astronomy, MPI for Extraterrestrial Physics, Max Planck Society;

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Citation

Tacconi, L. J., Genzel, R., & Sternberg, A. (2020). The evolution of the star-forming interstellar medium across cosmic time. In Annual Review of Astronomy and Astrophysics (pp. 157-203 ). Palo Alto, CA, USA: Annual Reviews Inc.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0007-FD38-E
Abstract
Over the past decade, increasingly robust estimates of the dense molecular gas content in galaxy populations between redshift z = 0 and the peak of cosmic galaxy/star formation (z ∼ 1–3) have become available. This rapid progress has been possible due to the advent of powerful ground- and space-based telescopes for the combined study of several millimeter to far-IR, line or continuum tracers of the molecular gas and dust components. The main conclusions of this review are as follows: ▪  Star-forming galaxies contained much more molecular gas at earlier cosmic epochs than at the present time. ▪  The galaxy-integrated depletion timescale for converting the gas into stars depends primarily on z or Hubble time and, at a given z, on the vertical location of a galaxy along the star-formation rate versus stellar mass main sequence (MS) correlation. ▪  Global rates of galaxy gas accretion primarily control the evolution of the cold molecular gas content and star-formation rates of the dominant MS galaxy population, which in turn vary with cosmological expansion. Another key driver may be global disk fragmentation in high-z, gas-rich galaxies, which ties local free-fall timescales to galactic orbital times and leads to rapid radial matter transport and bulge growth. The low star-formation efficiency inside molecular clouds is plausibly set by supersonic streaming motions and internal turbulence, which in turn may be driven by conversion of gravitational energy at high z and/or by local feedback from massive stars at low z. ▪  A simple gas regulator model is remarkably successful in predicting the combined evolution of molecular gas fractions, star-formation rates, galactic winds, and gas-phase metallicities.