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Star Formation: From OB Associations to Protostars

  • Charles J. Lada (a1)

Extract

The study of star formation is a relatively young discipline of the field of astronomy. Up until the mid point of the twentieth century only a most rudimentary understanding of the subject was possible. This is because prior to that time there did not exist any substantive body of empirical data which could be used to critically test even the most basic hypotheses concerning stellar origins. However, as a result of impressive advances in observational technology and in our understanding of stellar evolution during the last forty years, the subject of star formation has developed into one of the most important branches of modern astrophysical research. A large body of observational data and a considerable literature pertaining to this subject now exist and a significant fraction of the international astronomical community devotes their efforts towards trying to comprehend the origins of stars and planets. Yet, despite these efforts we have yet to observationally identify, with any certainty, a single object in the process of stellar birth! Moreover, we have not yet produced a viable theory of star formation, one capable of being tested and refined by critical experiment. In many ways, stellar birth is as much a mystery today as it was forty years ago. However, there can be little doubt that during the last two decades truly revolutionary progress has been made in the quest to understand the star formation process in our galaxy. This apparent paradox in the state of our knowledge concerning stellar origins is resolved with the realization that the history of the study of star formation has been a history of the study of progressively earlier and earlier stages of stellar evolution. Indeed, it is in precisely this area of endeavor that we have learned so much.

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Copyright

References

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