Hierarchical Fragmentation of the Orion Molecular Filaments

Satoko Takahashi, Paul T. P. Ho, Paula S. Teixeira, Luis A. Zapata, Yu-Nung Su

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64 Citations (Scopus)


We present a high angular resolution map of the 850 μm continuum emission of the Orion Molecular Cloud-3 (OMC 3) obtained with the Submillimeter Array (SMA); the map is a mosaic of 85 pointings covering an approximate area of 6.'5 × 2.'0 (0.88 × 0.27 pc). We detect 12 spatially resolved continuum sources, each with an H2 mass between 0.3-5.7 M ⊙ and a projected source size between 1400-8200 AU. All the detected sources are on the filamentary main ridge (n_{H_2}≥ 10^6 cm-3), and analysis based on the Jeans theorem suggests that they are most likely gravitationally unstable. Comparison of multi-wavelength data sets indicates that of the continuum sources, 6/12 (50%) are associated with molecular outflows, 8/12 (67%) are associated with infrared sources, and 3/12 (25%) are associated with ionized jets. The evolutionary status of these sources ranges from prestellar cores to protostar phase, confirming that OMC-3 is an active region with ongoing embedded star formation. We detect quasi-periodical separations between the OMC-3 sources of ≈17''/0.035 pc. This spatial distribution is part of a large hierarchical structure that also includes fragmentation scales of giant molecular cloud (≈35 pc), large-scale clumps (≈1.3 pc), and small-scale clumps (≈0.3 pc), suggesting that hierarchical fragmentation operates within the Orion A molecular cloud. The fragmentation spacings are roughly consistent with the thermal fragmentation length in large-scale clumps, while for small-scale cores it is smaller than the local fragmentation length. These smaller spacings observed with the SMA can be explained by either a helical magnetic field, cloud rotation, or/and global filament collapse. Finally, possible evidence for sequential fragmentation is suggested in the northern part of the OMC-3 filament.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)57
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2013


  • ISM: clouds
  • ISM: individual objects: OMC-3 Orion A
  • ISM: structure
  • stars: formation
  • stars: protostars


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