The formation of a star cluster: predicting the properties of stars and brown dwarfs

M.R. Bate, Ian Alexander Bonnell, V Bromm

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572 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

We present results from the largest numerical simulation of star formation to resolve the fragmentation process down to the opacity limit. The simulation follows the collapse and fragmentation of a large-scale turbulent molecular cloud to form a stellar cluster and, simultaneously, the formation of circumstellar discs and binary stars. This large range of scales enables us to predict a wide variety of stellar properties for comparison with observations.

The calculation clearly demonstrates that star formation is a highly-dynamic and chaotic process. Star formation occurs in localized bursts within the cloud via the fragmentation both of dense molecular cloud cores and of massive circumstellar discs. Star-disc encounters form binaries and truncate discs. Stellar encounters disrupt bound multiple systems. We find that the observed statistical properties of stars are a natural consequence of star formation in such a dynamical environment. The cloud produces roughly equal numbers of stars and brown dwarfs, with masses down to the opacity limit for fragmentation (approximate to5 Jupiter masses). The initial mass function is consistent with a Salpeter slope (Gamma=-1.35) above 0.5 M-circle dot , a roughly flat distribution (Gamma= 0) in the range 0.006-0.5 M-circle dot , and a sharp cut-off below approximate to0.005 M-circle dot. This is consistent with recent observational surveys. The brown dwarfs form by the dynamical ejection of low-mass fragments from dynamically unstable multiple systems before the fragments have been able to accrete to stellar masses. Close binary systems (with separations less than or similar to10 au) are not formed by fragmentation in situ . Rather, they are produced by hardening of initially wider multiple systems through a combination of dynamical encounters, gas accretion, and/or the interaction with circumbinary and circumtriple discs. Finally, we find that the majority of circumstellar discs have radii less than 20 au due to truncation in dynamical encounters. This is consistent with observations of the Orion Trapezium cluster and implies that most stars and brown dwarfs do not form large planetary systems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)577-599
Number of pages23
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Volume339
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2003

Keywords

  • accretion, accretion discs
  • hydrodynamics
  • binaries : general
  • stars : formation
  • stars : low-mass, brown dwarfs
  • stars : luminosity function, mass function
  • INITIAL MASS FUNCTION
  • ORION NEBULA CLUSTER
  • MAIN-SEQUENCE STARS
  • SMOOTHED PARTICLE HYDRODYNAMICS
  • ROTATING INTERSTELLAR CLOUDS
  • ELONGATED CYLINDRICAL CLOUDS
  • SOLAR-TYPE STARS
  • SELF-GRAVITATIONAL HYDRODYNAMICS
  • WEAKLY MAGNETIZED DISKS
  • LOCAL SHEAR INSTABILITY

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