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Fragmentation in Molecular Clouds: The Formation of a Stellar Cluster

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  04 August 2010

Ralf Klessen
Affiliation:
Max-Planck-Institut für Astronomie, Königstuhl 17, 69117 Heidelberg, Germany
Andreas Burkert
Affiliation:
Max-Planck-Institut für Astronomie, Königstuhl 17, 69117 Heidelberg, Germany
Jose Franco
Affiliation:
Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México
Alberto Carraminana
Affiliation:
Instituto Nacional de Astrofisica, Optica y Electronica, Tonantzintla, Mexico
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Summary

The isothermal gravitational collapse and fragmentation of a molecular cloud region and the subsequent formation of a protostellar cluster is investigated numerically. The clump mass spectrum which forms during the fragmentation phase can be well approximated by a power law distribution dN/dMM−1.5. In contrast, the mass spectrum of protostellar cores that form in the centers of Jeans unstable clumps and evolve through accretion and N-body interaction is best described by a log-normal distribution. Assuming a star formation efficiency of ∼ 10%, it is in excellent agreement with the IMF of multiple stellar systems.

Introduction

Understanding the processes leading to the formation of stars is one of the fundamental challenges in astronomy and astrophysics. However, theoretical models considerably lag behind the recent observational progress. The analytical description of the star formation process is restricted to the collapse of isolated, idealized objects (Whitworth & Summers 1985). Much the same applies to numerical studies (e.g. Boss 1997; Burkert et al. 1997 and reference therein). Previous numerical models that treated cloud fragmentation on scales larger than single, isolated clumps were strongly constrained by numerical resolution. Larson (1978), for example, used just 150 particles in an SPH-like simulation. Whitworth et al. (1995) were the first who addressed star formation in an entire cloud region using high-resolution numerical models. However, they studied a different problem: fragmentation and star formation in the shocked interface of colliding molecular clumps.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 1999

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