Star formation laws and thresholds from ISM structure and turbulence
We present an analytical model of the relation between the surface density of gas and star formation rate in galaxies and clouds, as a function of the presence of supersonic turbulence and the associated structure of the interstellar medium. The model predicts a power-law relation of index 3/2, flattened under the effects of stellar feedback at high densities or in very turbulent media, and a break at low surface densities when ISM turbulence becomes too weak to induce strong compression. This model explains the diversity of star formation laws and thresholds observed in nearby spirals and their resolved regions, the Small Magellanic Cloud, high-redshift disks and starbursting mergers, as well as Galactic molecular clouds. While other models have proposed interstellar dust content and molecule formation to be key ingredients to the observed variations of the star formation efficiency, we demonstrate instead that these variations can be explained by interstellar medium turbulence and structure in various types of galaxies.