Star formation in evolving molecular clouds
Hamburger Sternwarte, Universität Hamburg, Gojenbergsweg 112, 21029 Hamburg, Germany
Received: 1 March 2017
Accepted: 3 July 2017
Molecular clouds are the principle stellar nurseries of our universe; they thus remain a focus of both observational and theoretical studies. From observations, some of the key properties of molecular clouds are well known but many questions regarding their evolution and star formation activity remain open. While numerical simulations feature a large number and complexity of involved physical processes, this plethora of effects may hide the fundamentals that determine the evolution of molecular clouds and enable the formation of stars. Purely analytical models, on the other hand, tend to suffer from rough approximations or a lack of completeness, limiting their predictive power. In this paper, we present a model that incorporates central concepts of astrophysics as well as reliable results from recent simulations of molecular clouds and their evolutionary paths. Based on that, we construct a self-consistent semi-analytical framework that describes the formation, evolution, and star formation activity of molecular clouds, including a number of feedback effects to account for the complex processes inside those objects. The final equation system is solved numerically but at much lower computational expense than, for example, hydrodynamical descriptions of comparable systems. The model presented in this paper agrees well with a broad range of observational results, showing that molecular cloud evolution can be understood as an interplay between accretion, global collapse, star formation, and stellar feedback.
Key words: stars: evolution / stars: formation / ISM: clouds / evolution / ISM: kinematics and dynamics / ISM: structure
© ESO, 2017