EDP Sciences
Free Access
Volume 414, Number 2, February I 2004
Page(s) 633 - 650
Section Stellar atmospheres
DOI https://doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361:20031594

A&A 414, 633-650 (2004)
DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361:20031594

Simulating star formation in molecular cloud cores

I. The influence of low levels of turbulence on fragmentation and multiplicity
S. P. Goodwin, A. P. Whitworth and D. Ward-Thompson

Dept. of Physics & Astronomy, Cardiff University, 5 The Parade, Cardiff, CF24 3YB, UK
(Received 21 August 2003 / Accepted 10 October 2003 )

We present the results of an ensemble of simulations of the collapse and fragmentation of dense star-forming cores. We show that even with very low levels of turbulence the outcome is usually a binary, or higher-order multiple, system.

We take as the initial conditions for these simulations a typical low-mass core, based on the average properties of a large sample of observed cores. All the simulated cores start with a mass of $M_{\rm total} = 5.4~M_{\odot}$, a flattened central density profile, a ratio of thermal to gravitational energy $\alpha_{\rm therm} = 0.45$ and a ratio of turbulent to gravitational energy $\alpha_{\rm turb}
= 0.05\,$ . Even this low level of turbulence - much lower than in most previous simulations - is sufficient to produce multiple star formation in 80% of the cores; the mean number of stars and brown dwarfs formed from a single core is 4.55, and the maximum is 10. At the outset, the cores have no large-scale rotation. The only difference between each individual simulation is the detailed structure of the turbulent velocity field.

The multiple systems formed in the simulations have properties consistent with observed multiple systems. Dynamical evolution tends preferentially to eject lower mass stars and brown dwarves whilst hardening the remaining binaries so that the median semi-major axis of binaries formed is ~ 30 AU. Ejected objects are usually single low-mass stars and brown dwarfs, yielding a strong correlation between mass and multiplicity. Brown dwarves are ejected with a higher average velocity than stars, and over time this should lead to mass segregation in the parent cluster. Our simulations suggest a natural mechanism for forming binary stars that does not require large-scale rotation, capture, or large amounts of turbulence.

Key words: stars: formation

Offprint request: S. P. Goodwin, simon.goodwin@astro.cf.ac.uk

© ESO 2004

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