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Tim Kendall's Extreme Astrophysics

New clues to the origin of stellar masses

12 Dec 2019, 19:17 UTC
New clues to the origin of stellar masses
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CEA-Irfu: An international team led by the Astrophysics Department-AIM Laboratory of CEA-Irfu has just obtained new clues about the origin of the distribution of the masses of stars, combining observational data from the large interferometer ALMA and the APEX radio telescope operated by the European Southern Observatory (ESO) and the Herschel Space Observatory. Thanks to ALMA, the researchers have discovered in the Cat’s Paw Nebula (NGC 6334), located at about 5,500 light years distant, the presence of protostellar dense cores much more massive than those observed in the solar vicinity. Researchers have shown that there is a close link between the mass distribution of interstellar filaments and the mass distribution of stars. The density – or mass per unit length – of the parent filaments is the crucial parameter that controls the masses of newly-formed stars. This discovery provides a key clue to the origin of stellar masses. These results are published in three articles of the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.

Stars are major building blocks of the Universe and the life of a star is almost entirely determined by its initial mass. But, the origin of the mass distribution of stars at birth – called the initial mass function ...

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