Stars and star clusters form by gravoturbulent fragmentation of interstellar gas clouds. The supersonic turbulence ubiquitously observed in Galactic molecular gas generates strong density fluctuations with gravity taking over in the densest and most massive regions. Collapse sets in to build up stars.
Turbulence plays a dual role. On global scales it provides support, while at the same time it can promote local collapse. Stellar birth is thus intimately linked to the dynamical behavior of parental gas cloud, which governs when and where protostars form, and how they contract and grow in mass via accretion from the surrounding cloud material. The thermodynamic behavior of the star forming gas plays a crucial part in this process and influences the stellar mass function as well as the dynamic properties of the nascent stellar cluster.
This lecture provides a critical review of our current understanding of stellar birth and compares observational data with competing theoretical models.