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Historical Perspective on Computational Star Formation

  • Richard B. Larson (a1)

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The idea that stars are formed by gravity goes back more than 300 years to Newton, and the idea that gravitational instability plays a role goes back more than 100 years to Jeans, but the idea that stars are forming at the present time in the interstellar medium is more recent and did not emerge until the energy source of stars had been identified and it was realized that the most luminous stars have short lifetimes and therefore must have formed recently. The first suggestion that stars may be forming now in the interstellar medium was credited by contemporary authors to a paper by Spitzer in 1941 in which he talks about the formation of interstellar condensations by radiation pressure, but then oddly says nothing about star formation. That may be because, as Spitzer later told me, when he first suggested very tentatively in a paper submitted to The Astrophysical Journal that stars might be forming now from interstellar matter, this was considered a radical idea and the referee said it was much too speculative and should be taken out of the paper. So Spitzer removed the speculation about star formation from the published version of his paper.

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Historical Perspective on Computational Star Formation

  • Richard B. Larson (a1)

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