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Some processes influencing the stellar initial mass function

  • Richard B. Larson (a1)

Abstract

Current evidence suggests that the stellar initial mass function has the same basic form everywhere, and that its fundamental features are (1) the existence of a characteristic stellar mass of order one solar mass, and (2) the existence of an apparently universal power-law form for the mass spectrum of the more massive stars. The characteristic stellar mass may be determined in part by the typical mass scale for the fragmentation of star forming clouds, which is predicted to be of the order of one solar mass. The power-law extension of the mass spectrum toward higher masses may result from the continuing accretional growth of some stars to much larger masses; the fact that the most massive stars appear to form preferentially in cluster cores suggests that such continuing accretion may be particularly important at the centers of clusters. Numerical simulations suggest that forming systems of stars may tend to develop a hierarchical structure, possibly self-similar in nature. If most stars form in such hierarchically structured systems, and if the mass of the most massive star that forms in each subcluster increases as a power of the mass of the subcluster, then a mass spectrum of power-law form is predicted. Some possible physical effects that could lead to such a relation are briefly discussed, and some observational tests of the ideas discussed here are proposed.

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References

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Some processes influencing the stellar initial mass function

  • Richard B. Larson (a1)

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