Volume 435, Number 2, May IV 2005
|Page(s)||611 - 623|
|Section||Stellar structure and evolution|
|Published online||29 April 2005|
The stellar mass spectrum from non-isothermal gravoturbulent fragmentation
Astrophysikalisches Institut Potsdam, An der Sternwarte 16, 14482 Potsdam, Germany e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
2 Department of Astronomy, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06520-8101, USA
3 Department of Astrophysics, American Museum of Natural History, 79th Street at Central Park West, New York, NY 10024-5192, USA
4 Department of Astronomy, Columbia University, New York, NY 10027, USA
Accepted: 12 January 2005
The thermodynamic state of star-forming gas determines its fragmentation behavior and thus plays a crucial role in determining the stellar initial mass function (IMF). We address the issue by studying the effects of a piecewise polytropic equation of state (EOS) on the formation of stellar clusters in turbulent, self-gravitating molecular clouds using three-dimensional, smoothed particle hydrodynamics simulations. In these simulations stars form via a process we call gravoturbulent fragmentation, i.e., gravitational fragmentation of turbulent gas. To approximate the results of published predictions of the thermal behavior of collapsing clouds, we increase the polytropic exponent γ from 0.7 to 1.1 at a critical density nc, which we estimated to be . The change of thermodynamic state at nc selects a characteristic mass scale for fragmentation Mch, which we relate to the peak of the observed IMF. A simple scaling argument based on the Jeans mass at the critical density leads to . We perform simulations with to test this scaling argument. Our simulations qualitatively support this hypothesis, but we find a weaker density dependence of . We also investigate the influence of additional environmental parameters on the IMF. We consider variations in the turbulent driving scheme, and consistently find is decreasing with increasing . Our investigation generally supports the idea that the distribution of stellar masses depends mainly on the thermodynamic state of the star-forming gas. The thermodynamic state of interstellar gas is a result of the balance between heating and cooling processes, which in turn are determined by fundamental atomic and molecular physics and by chemical abundances. Given the abundances, the derivation of a characteristic stellar mass can thus be based on universal quantities and constants.
Key words: stars: formation / methods: numerical / hydrodynamics / turbulence / equation of state / ISM: clouds
© ESO, 2005
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