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Astron. Astrophys. 333, 92-100 (1998)

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Identification of molecular complexes in M 81

N. Brouillet 1, M. Kaufman 2, F. Combes 3, A. Baudry 1 and F. Bash 4

1 Observatoire de l'Université Bordeaux 1, CNRS URA [FORMULA] 352, B.P. 89, F-33270 Floirac, France
2 Department of Physics, The Ohio State University, 174 West 18th Avenue, Columbus, OH 43210, USA
3 Observatoire de Paris, 61 avenue de l'Observatoire, F-75014 Paris, France
4 Department of Astronomy, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX 78712, USA

Received 5 August 1997 / Accepted 22 December 1997


We report about high spatial resolution observations made with the IRAM Plateau de Bure interferometer of the 12 CO([FORMULA]) emission from a [FORMULA] kpc plane-of-sky field on a spiral arm of Messier 81. With a beam of [FORMULA] 90 pc, we identify 6 giant molecular cloud complexes with virial masses of [FORMULA] [FORMULA], including one associated with a giant HII region. The deduced [FORMULA])/ [FORMULA] ratios are about 3 times larger on average than those measured near the solar neighborhood, suggesting that the complexes are not self-gravitationally bound except, possibly, for the complex associated with the giant HII region; they could be the average of several clouds of mass a few 105 [FORMULA] and diameter [FORMULA] 100 pc. The linewidths are very narrow with respect to the measured sizes, so that the size-linewidth relation for M 81 clouds is very different from that in the Milky Way. The narrow linewidths imply smaller virial masses than for Galactic complexes of the same size, and this is consistent with the weaker CO emission from the GMCs in M 81. The low velocity dispersion suggests a lower mean volume density in the cloud and, possibly, a smaller scale height of the molecular gas than in Galactic clouds of the same size. Comparison of the interferometer and single-dish line profiles indicates that, at most, 30% of the single-dish emission in this field is from a widespread distribution of small clouds, and thus the population of molecular clouds is rather different from that in the Milky Way.

The H2 surface density in M 81 is low: although the region studied here is one of the richer molecular regions in the disk, the molecular surface density is much smaller than the interarm regions of M 51 for example. The HI gas dominates and can explain most of the extinction seen at optical wavelengths in this field. In some other fields, the HI gas cannot explain the observed extinction, but previous lower resolution observations detected little or no CO there. The present high resolution observations imply that the molecular medium in M 81 differs from that in the Milky Way.

Key words: galaxies: individual: M 81 – galaxies: ISM – radio lines: galaxies – ISM: clouds

Send offprint requests to: N. Brouillet

© European Southern Observatory (ESO) 1998

Online publication: April 15, 1998