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Title: Low virial parameters in molecular clouds: Implications for high-mass star formation and magnetic fields

Whether or not molecular clouds and embedded cloud fragments are stable against collapse is of utmost importance for the study of the star formation process. Only 'supercritical' cloud fragments are able to collapse and form stars. The virial parameter α = M {sub vir}/M, which compares the virial mass to the actual mass, provides one way to gauge stability against collapse. Supercritical cloud fragments are characterized by α ≲ 2, as indicated by a comprehensive stability analysis considering perturbations in pressure and density gradients. Past research has suggested that virial parameters α ≳ 2 prevail in clouds. This would suggest that collapse toward star formation is a gradual and relatively slow process and that magnetic fields are not needed to explain the observed cloud structure. Here, we review a range of very recent observational studies that derive virial parameters <<2 and compile a catalog of 1325 virial parameter estimates. Low values of α are in particular observed for regions of high-mass star formation (HMSF). These observations may argue for a more rapid and violent evolution during collapse. This would enable 'competitive accretion' in HMSF, constrain some models of 'monolithic collapse', and might explain the absence of high-mass starless cores. Alternatively,more » the data could point at the presence of significant magnetic fields ∼1 mG at high gas densities. We examine to what extent the derived observational properties might be biased by observational or theoretical uncertainties. For a wide range of reasonable parameters, our conclusions appear to be robust with respect to such biases.« less
Authors:
;  [1] ;  [2]
  1. Astronomy Department, California Institute of Technology, 1200 East California Boulevard, Pasadena, CA 91125 (United States)
  2. Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, 4800 Oak Grove Boulevard, Pasadena, CA 91109 (United States)
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
22348399
Resource Type:
Journal Article
Resource Relation:
Journal Name: Astrophysical Journal; Journal Volume: 779; Journal Issue: 2; Other Information: Country of input: International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
79 ASTROPHYSICS, COSMOLOGY AND ASTRONOMY; DATA ANALYSIS; DENSITY; DISTURBANCES; EVOLUTION; MAGNETIC FIELDS; MASS; PERTURBATION THEORY; STABILITY; STARS