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Radiation pressure in massive star formation

  • Mark R. Krumholz (a1), Richard I. Klein (a2) (a3) and Christopher F. McKee (a1) (a2)

Abstract

Stars with masses of $\gtsim 20$ $M_{odot}$ have short Kelvin times that enable them to reach the main sequence while still accreting from their natal clouds. The resulting nuclear burning produces a huge luminosity and a correspondingly large radiation pressure force on dust grains in the accreting gas. This effect may limit the upper mass of stars that can form by accretion. Indeed, simulations and analytic calculations to date have been unable to resolve the mystery of how stars of 50 $M_{odot}$ and up form. We present two new ideas to solve the radiation pressure problem. First, we use three-dimensional radiation hydrodynamic adaptive mesh refinement simulations to study the collapse of massive cores. We find that in three dimensions a configuration in which radiation holds up an infalling envelope is Rayleigh-Taylor unstable, leading radiation driven bubbles to collapse and accretion to continue. We also present Monte Carlo radiative transfer calculations showing that the cavities created by protostellar winds provides a valve that allow radiation to escape the accreting envelope, further reducing the ability of radiation pressure to inhibit accretion.

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