Dark impact and galactic star formation: origin of the Gould belt


E-mail: bekki@bat.phys.unsw.edu.au


The Milky Way has a giant stellar structure in the solar neighbourhood, which has a size of ∼1 kpc, a mass of ∼106 M and a ring-like distribution of young stars. Fundamental physical properties of this local enigmatic structure, known as the Gould belt (GB), have not been reproduced by previously proposed models. We first show that the local enigmatic structure could have formed about 30 Myr ago as a result of a high-speed, oblique collision between a gas cloud with a mass of ∼106 M and a dark matter clump with a mass of ∼107 M based on numerical simulations of the collision. We find that strong dynamical impact of the clump transforms the flattened cloud into a ring-like stellar structure after inducing star formation within the cloud. Our simulations furthermore demonstrate that the stellar structure is moderately elongated and significantly inclined with respect to the disc of the Milky Way owing to the strong tidal torque by the colliding clump. We thus suggest that the GB is one of the stellar substructures formed from collisions between gas clouds and dark matter clumps predicted in the hierarchical clustering scenario of galaxy formation. We also suggest that collisions of dark matter clumps with their host galaxies can significantly change star formation histories for some of their gas clouds, and thus influence galactic global star formation histories to some extent. Our simulations predict that unique giant stellar substructures recently discovered in other galaxies can result from dynamical impact of their dark matter clumps on their gas clouds.