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A ram-pressure threshold for star formation

Whitworth, Anthony Peter 2016. A ram-pressure threshold for star formation. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 458 (2) , pp. 1815-1832. 10.1093/mnras/stw442

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In turbulent fragmentation, star formation occurs in condensations created by converging flows. The condensations must be sufficiently massive, dense and cool to be gravitationally unstable, so that they start to contract; and they must then radiate away thermal energy fast enough for self-gravity to remain dominant, so that they continue to contract. For the metallicities and temperatures in local star-forming clouds, this second requirement is only met robustly when the gas couples thermally to the dust, because this delivers the capacity to radiate across the full bandwidth of the continuum, rather than just in a few discrete spectral lines. This translates into a threshold for vigorous star formation, which can be written as a minimum ram pressure PCRIT ∼ 4 × 10−11 dyne. PCRIT is independent of temperature, and corresponds to flows with molecular hydrogen number density nH2.FLOW and velocity vFLOW satisfying nH2.FLOWv2FLOW≳800cm−3(kms−1)2. This in turn corresponds to a minimum molecular hydrogen column density for vigorous star formation, NH2.CRIT∼4×1021cm−2 (ΣCRIT ∼ 100 M⊙ pc−2), and a minimum visual extinction AV, CRIT ∼ 9 mag. The characteristic diameter and line density for a star-forming filament when this threshold is just exceeded – a sweet spot for local star formation regions – are 2RFIL ∼ 0.1 pc and μFIL ∼ 13 M⊙ pc−2. The characteristic diameter and mass for a prestellar core condensing out of such a filament are 2RCORE ∼ 0.1 pc and MCORE ∼ 1 M⊙. We also show that fragmentation of a shock-compressed layer is likely to commence while the convergent flows creating the layer are still ongoing, and we stress that, under this circumstance, the phenomenology and characteristic scales for fragmentation of the layer are fundamentally different from those derived traditionally for pre-existing layers.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Physics and Astronomy
Advanced Research Computing @ Cardiff (ARCCA)
Subjects: Q Science > QB Astronomy
Publisher: Oxford University Press
ISSN: 0035-8711
Date of Acceptance: 23 February 2016
Last Modified: 28 Aug 2019 12:52

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