The evolution of interstellar clouds in a streaming hot plasma including heat conduction
Astronomy and Astrophysics
To examine the evolution of giant molecular clouds in the stream of a hot plasma we performed two-dimensional hydrodynamical simulations that take full account of self-gravity, heating and cooling effects and heat conduction by electrons. We use the thermal conductivity of a fully ionized hydrogen plasma proposed by Spitzer and a saturated heat flux according to Cowie & McKee in regions where the mean free path of the electrons is large compared to the temperature scaleheight. Significant
... . Significant structural and evolutionary differences occur between simulations with and without heat conduction. Dense clouds in pure dynamical models experience dynamical destruction by Kelvin-Helmholtz (KH) instability. In static models heat conduction leads to evaporation of such clouds. Heat conduction acting on clouds in a gas stream smooths out steep temperature and density gradients at the edge of the cloud because the conduction timescale is shorter than the cooling timescale. This diminishes the velocity gradient between the streaming plasma and the cloud, so that the timescale for the onset of KH instabilities increases, and the surface of the cloud becomes less susceptible to KH instabilities. The stabilisation effect of heat conduction against KH instability is more pronounced for smaller and less massive clouds. As in the static case more realistic cloud conditions allow heat conduction to transfer hot material onto the cloud's surface and to mix the accreted gas deeper into the cloud.