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Three Open Question in Star Formation, and How to Taste the Answers

Thursday, September 30, 2010- 4:00pm

UVA/NRAO Colloquium, National Radio Astronomy Observatory, Charlottesville


Alyssa Goodman

Professor of Astronomy, Harvard University & Research Associate, Smithsonian Institution




The details of star formation within molecular clouds are often called "messy," yet the recent conventional wisdom seems to be that we have the "big picture" all figured out.  Both points of view are partly correct.  We know, with great confidence, that gravity is the main force that forms stars out of interstellar gas.  What we do not know, really, is how molecular clouds re-arrange themselves into the structures that *can* collapse gravitationally to form stars.  My talk will focus on three open questions, to which we have recently found at least hints about the answer.  1.) On what spatial and temporal scales does self-gravity really control the evolution of structure in star-forming regions? 2.)  What roles do winds from very young, and not-so-young, stars play in stirring up molecular clouds? and 3.) Is the IMF set up in the structure of clouds (e.g. directly related to the so-called "clump mass function") or is its origin more subtle than that? The recent hints about answers to these questions come primarily from inter-comparison of simulations and observations with an approach we call "Taste Testing," which I shall demonstrate in the talk.