CfA Colloquium Schedule Fall 2007
 18 October 2007

18 October 2007

Speaker: Charles Lada (CfA)

Title: Dark Nebular Cores and the Origin of Stellar Masses

Abstract: Detailed knowledge of the initial distribution of stellar masses at birth (the IMF) and how this quantity varies through space and time is necessary to predict the evolution of all stellar systems from star clusters to galaxies. Yet the origin of stellar masses remains one of the most fundamental unsolved problems of astrophysics. Stars form in the dense cores of dark nebulae, but little is understood about the detailed physical properties of these cores prior to star formation and even less is understood about their origin. Yet both these issues are critically linked to understanding the origin of stellar masses and the IMF. In this colloquium I will first review the current knowledge concerning functional form and universality of the IMF as derived from observations of field stars and extremely young clusters. I will then relate this knowledge to exciting new results concerning the physical nature of dense cores on the verge of star formation. I will argue that these results suggest that the distribution of initial stellar masses derives directly from the distribution of dense core masses which itself may have its origins in a process of simple thermal fragmentation in a pressurized medium. The initial distribution of stellar birth masses produced by star formation may therefore be the result of the interplay only a few very basic and measurable physical processes.

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