73 research outputs found

    How Many Infrared Dark Clouds can form Massive Stars and Clusters?

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    We present a new assessment of the ability of Infrared Dark Clouds (IRDCs) to form massive stars and clusters. This is done by comparison with an empirical mass-size threshold for massive star formation (MSF). We establish m(r)>870M_sun(r/pc)^1.33 as a novel approximate MSF limit, based on clouds with and without MSF. Many IRDCs, if not most, fall short of this threshold. Without significant evolution, such clouds are unlikely MSF candidates. This provides a first quantitative assessment of the small number of IRDCs evolving towards MSF. IRDCs below this limit might still form stars and clusters of up to intermediate mass, though (like, e.g., the Ophiuchus and Perseus Molecular Clouds). Nevertheless, a major fraction of the mass contained in IRDCs might reside in few 10^2 clouds sustaining MSF.Comment: accepted to The Astrophysical Journal Letters; not yet including second set of referee comment

    The Initial Conditions of High Mass Star-Formation

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    Studies in the field of star formation have led to a good understanding of low mass star-formation. However there are both theoretical and observational challenges that hinder a similar understanding of high mass star-formation. Studies on the initial stages of high mass star formation would be the best strategical advance for observers. Only recently have clouds with the potential of forming high-mass stars and /or clusters, but still yet largely devoid of stellar objects, been identified: Infrared Dark Clouds. As part of my PhD thesis, I conducted a comprehensive observational study of infrared dark clouds (IRDCs). IRDCs are cold, dense molecular clouds seen in silhouette against the bright diffuse mid-infrared (MIR) emission of the Galactic plane. The main objective was to identify the physical and chemical properties of the massive cores embedded in IRDCs, the progenitors of high-mass stars. Observations were made with mm/cm single dish telescopes, interferometers and mid-infrared data from Space Telescopes (MSX/SPITZER) for the study. I find that IRDCs harbour precluster cores which are gravitationally bound and turbulent. These cores show a high degree of deuteriation and depletion. In some cases cores harbour clusters at a very early evolutionary stage showing that massive stars can form within IRDCs. This work has provided evidence that within IRDCs, the long sought progenitors of high mass stars can be found

    Low Virial Parameters in Molecular Clouds: Implications for High Mass Star Formation and Magnetic Fields

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    Whether or not molecular clouds and embedded cloud fragments are stable against collapse is of utmost importance for the study of the star formation process. Only "supercritical" cloud fragments are able to collapse and form stars. The virial parameter, alpha=M_vir/M, which compares the virial to the actual mass, provides one way to gauge stability against collapse. Supercritical cloud fragments are characterized by alpha<2, as indicated by a comprehensive stability analysis considering perturbations in pressure and density gradients. Past research has suggested that virial parameters alpha>2 prevail in clouds. This would suggest that collapse towards star formation is a gradual and relatively slow process, and that magnetic fields are not needed to explain the observed cloud structure. Here, we review a range of very recent observational studies that derive virial parameters <<2 and compile a catalogue of 1325 virial parameter estimates. Low values of alpha are in particular observed for regions of high mass star formation (HMSF). These observations may argue for a more rapid and violent evolution during collapse. This would enable "competitive accretion" in HMSF, constrain some models of "monolithic collapse", and might explain the absence of high--mass starless cores. Alternatively, the data could point at the presence of significant magnetic fields ~1 mG at high gas densities. We examine to what extent the derived observational properties might be biased by observational or theoretical uncertainties. For a wide range of reasonable parameters, our conclusions appear to be robust with respect to such biases.Comment: accepted to Ap

    The Galactic Center Cloud G0.253+0.016: A Massive Dense Cloud with low Star Formation Potential

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    We present the first interferometric molecular line and dust emission maps for the Galactic Center (GC) cloud G0.253+0.016, observed using CARMA and the SMA. This cloud is very dense, and concentrates a mass exceeding the Orion Molecular Cloud Complex (2 × 10^5 M_☉) into a radius of only 3 pc, but it is essentially starless. G0.253+0.016 therefore violates "star formation laws" presently used to explain trends in galactic and extragalactic star formation by a factor ~45. Our observations show a lack of dense cores of significant mass and density, thus explaining the low star formation activity. Instead, cores with low densities and line widths ≾1 km s^(–1)—probably the narrowest lines reported for the GC region to date—are found. Evolution over several 10^5 yr is needed before more massive cores, and possibly an Arches-like stellar cluster, could form. Given the disruptive dynamics of the GC region, and the potentially unbound nature of G0.253+0.016, it is not clear that this evolution will happen

    High-angular resolution observations of methanol in the infrared dark cloud core G11.11-0.12P1

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    Recent studies suggest that infrared dark clouds (IRDCs) have the potential of harboring the earliest stages of massive star formation and indeed evidence for this is found toward distinct regions within them. We present a study with the Plateau de Bure Interferometer of a core in the archetypal filamentary IRDC G11.11-0.12 at few arcsecond resolution to determine its physical and chemical structure. The data consist of continuum and line observations covering the C34S 2-1 line and the methanol 2_k-1_k v_t=0 lines at 3mm and the methanol 5_k-4_k v_t =0 lines at 1mm. Our observations show extended emission in the continuum at 1 and 3 mm. The methanol 2_k-1_k v_t=0 emission presents three maxima extending over 1 pc scale (when merged with single-dish short-spacing observations); one of the maxima is spatially coincident with the continuum emission. The fitting results show enhanced methanol fractional abundance (~3x10^-8) at the central peak with respect to the other two peaks, where it decreases by about an order of magnitude (~4-6x10^-9). Evidence of extended 4.5 microns emission, "wings" in the CH3OH 2_k-1_k spectra, and CH3OH abundance enhancement point to the presence of an outflow in the East-West direction. In addition, we find a gradient of ~4 km/s in the same direction, which we interpret as being produced by an outflow(s)-cloud interaction.Comment: Accepted for publication to A&

    Massive and low-mass protostars in massive "starless" cores

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    The infrared dark clouds (IRDCs) G11.11-0.12 and G28.34++0.06 are two of the best-studied IRDCs in our Galaxy. These two clouds host clumps at different stages of evolution, including a massive dense clump in both clouds that is dark even at 70 and 100μ\mum. Such seemingly quiescent massive dense clumps have been speculated to harbor cores that are precursors of high-mass stars and clusters. We observed these two "prestellar" regions at 1mm with the Submillimeter Array (SMA) with the aim of characterizing the nature of such cores. We show that the clumps fragment into several low- to high-mass cores within the filamentary structure of the enveloping cloud. However, while the overall physical properties of the clump may indicate a starless phase, we find that both regions host multiple outflows. The most massive core though 70 μ\mum dark in both clumps is clearly associated with compact outflows. Such low-luminosity, massive cores are potentially the earliest stage in the evolution of a massive protostar. We also identify several outflow features distributed in the large environment around the most massive core. We infer that these outflows are being powered by young, low-mass protostars whose core mass is below our detection limit. These findings suggest that low-mass protostars have already formed or are coevally formed at the earliest phase of high-mass star formation.Comment: in print at A&

    Probing the initial conditions of high-mass star formation -- IV. Gas dynamics and NH2_2D chemistry in high-mass precluster and protocluster clumps

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    The initial stage of star formation is a complex area study because of its high density and low temperature. Under such conditions, many molecules become depleted from the gas phase by freezing out onto dust grains. However, the deuterated species could remain gaseous and are thus ideal tracers. We investigate the gas dynamics and NH2_2D chemistry in eight massive pre/protocluster clumps. We present NH2_2D 111_{11}-101_{01} (at 85.926 GHz), NH3_3 (1, 1) and (2, 2) observations in the eight clumps using the PdBI and the VLA, respectively. We find that the distribution between deuterium fractionation and kinetic temperature shows a number density peak at around Tkin=16.1T_{\rm kin}=16.1 K, and the NH2_2D cores are mainly located at a temperature range of 13.0 to 22.0 K. We detect seven instances of extremely high deuterium fractionation of 1.0Dfrac1.411.0 \leqslant D_{\rm frac} \leqslant 1.41. We find that the NH2_2D emission does not appear to coincide exactly with either dust continuum or NH3_3 peak positions, but often surrounds the star-formation active regions. This suggests that the NH2_{2}D has been destroyed by the central young stellar object (YSO) due to its heating. The detected NH2_2D lines are very narrow with a median width of 0.98±0.02km/s\rm 0.98\pm0.02 km/s. The extracted NH2_2D cores are gravitationally bound (αvir<1\alpha_{\rm vir} < 1), are likely prestellar or starless, and can potentially form intermediate-mass or high-mass stars. Using NH3_3 (1, 1) as a dynamical tracer, we find very complicated dynamical movement, which can be explained by a combined process with outflow, rotation, convergent flow, collision, large velocity gradient, and rotating toroids. High deuterium fractionation strongly depends on the temperature condition. NH2_2D is a poor evolutionary indicator of high-mass star formation in evolved stages, but a useful tracer in the starless and prestellar cores.Comment: 27 pages, 25 figures, 6 tables, accepted for publication in A&