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Masers as Kinematic Signposts in Star Formation Regions

  • Ray P. Norris (a1)

Abstract

Masers have been well studied as indicators of star formation regions for over three decades. Their small size, high brightness, and narrow velocity width mean that we can measure their position and velocity with enormous accuracy, and so they stand out as high-precision signposts amidst the swirling gas that they sample. Nevertheless, in most cases the complexity of their kinematics has defied attempts to use them to unravel the processes of star formation. However, the last two or three years have seen a resurgence of interest in these masers because of exciting new evidence that, in some cases, they are tracing with high precision the kinematics of material in circumstellar disks around massive stars. The very existence of circumstellar disks around these massive stars is puzzling, and yet the maser results have now been confirmed by other data at radio and infrared wavelengths. In this paper I will review the current status of high-resolution maser observations, discuss some of the puzzles that are now confronting us, and speculate on where our current tentative steps may lead us.

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