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Detection of structure in infrared-dark clouds with Spitzer: characterizing star formation in the molecular ring

Ragan, Sarah, Bergin, Edwin A and Gutermuth, Robert A 2009. Detection of structure in infrared-dark clouds with Spitzer: characterizing star formation in the molecular ring. Astrophysical Journal 698 (1) , pp. 324-349. 10.1088/0004-637X/698/1/324

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We have conducted a survey of a sample of infrared-dark clouds (IRDCs) with the Spitzer Space Telescope in order to explore their mass distribution. We present a method for tracing mass using dust absorption against the bright Galactic background at 8 μm. The IRDCs in this sample are comprised of tens of clumps, ranging in sizes from 0.02 to 0.3 pc in diameter and masses from 0.5 to a few 103 M sun, the broadest dynamic range in any clump mass spectrum study to date. Structure with this range in scales confirms that IRDCs are the precursors to stellar clusters in an early phase of fragmentation. Young stars are distributed in the vicinity of the IRDCs, but the clumps are typically not associated with stars and appear prestellar in nature. We find an IRDC clump mass spectrum with a slope of α = 1.76 ± 0.05 for masses from 30 M sun to 3000 M sun. This slope is consistent with numerous studies, culled from a variety of observational techniques, of massive star formation regions and is close to the mass function of Galactic stellar clusters and star clusters in other galaxies. We assert that the shape of the mass function is an intrinsic and universal feature of massive star formation regions that are the birth sites of stellar clusters. As these clouds evolve and their constituent clumps fragment, the mass spectrum will steepen and eventually assume the form of the core mass function that is observed locally.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Physics and Astronomy
Subjects: Q Science > QB Astronomy
Publisher: American Astronomical Society
ISSN: 0004-637X
Date of Acceptance: 23 March 2009
Last Modified: 27 Nov 2017 15:49

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