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Star formation and the circumstellar matter of young stellar objects

  • Frank H. Shu (a1) and Fred C. Adams (a1)

Abstract

We propose that the formation of low mass stars in molecular clouds takes place in four stages. The first stage is the formation of slowly rotating cloud cores through the slow leakage of magnetic (and turbulent) support by ambipolar diffusion. These cores asymptotically approach quasistatic states resembling singular isothermal spheres, but such end states cannot actually be reached because they are unstable. The second phase begins when a condensing cloud core passes the brink of instability and collapses dynamically from “inside-out,” building up a central protostar and nebular disk. The emergent spectral energy distributions of theoretical models in the infall stage are in close agreement with those of recently found infrared sources with steep spectra. As the rotating protostar gains mass, deuterium will eventually ignite in the central regions and drive the star nearly completely convective if its mass is less than about 2 M . This initiates the next step of evolution - the bipolar outflow phase - in which a stellar wind pushes outward and breaks through the infalling envelope. The initial breakout is likely to occur along the rotational poles, leading to collimated jets and bipolar outflows. The intense stellar wind eventually widens to sweep out gas in nearly all 4π steradian, revealing the fourth stage - a T Tauri star with a surrounding remnant nebular disk. Radiation from a disk adds an infrared excess to the expected spectral energy distribution of the revealed source. The detailed shape of this infrared excess depends on whether the disk is largely passive and merely reprocesses stellar photons, or is relatively massive and actively accreting. Both extremes of spectral shapes are observed in T Tauri stars; the amount of circumstellar material in the form of disks around nearly formed stars may be related to the dual issues of the origins of binary-star and planetary systems.

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Copyright

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