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Star formation in molecular clouds

  • Frank H. Shu (a1)

Abstract

We examine how star formation occurs in the Galaxy and come to the following conclusions. (1) The distribution of newly-born stars in the Galaxy depends on the origin of giant-molecular-cloud complexes. For individual complexes, we favor the mechanism of Parker's instability behind galactic shocks. The production of “supercomplexes” may require the mediation of Jeans instability in the interstellar gas. (2) Magnetic fields help to support the clumps of molecular gas making up a complex against gravitational collapse. On a timescale of 107 years, these fields slip by ambipolar diffusion relative to the neutral gas, leading to the formation of dense cloud cores. This timescale is the expected spread in ages of stars born in any clump. (3) When the cores undergo gravitational collapse, they usually give rise to low-mass stars on a timescale of 105 years. (4) What shuts off the accretion flow and determines the mass of a new star is the onset of a powerful stellar wind. The ultimate source of energy for driving this wind in low-mass stars is the release of the energy of differential rotation acquired during the protostellar phase of evolution. The release is triggered by the entire protostar being driven convectively unstable when deuterium burning turns on.

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Copyright

References

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