Astrophysicists at the University of California, Berkeley, and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) have exploded one of two competing theories about how stars form inside immense clouds of interstellar gas.
A slice through a 3-D simulation of a turbulent clump of molecular hydrogen, with the densest areas shown in red. The zoom-in shows a protostar accreting gas and creating a dense wake behind it. The simulation shows that a protostar, once formed, cannot accrete much more gas from the surrounding clump, contradicting the competitive accretion theory. (Credit: Mark Krumholz)
Using supercomputer simulations that take into account the turbulence within a cloud collapsing to form a star, the researchers conclude that the "competitive accretion" model cannot explain what astronomers observe of star-forming regions studied to date.
That model, which is less than 10 years old and is championed by some British astronomers, predicts that interstellar hydrogen clouds develop clumps in which several small cores - the seeds of future stars - form. These cores, less than a light year across, collapse under their own gravity and compete for gas in the surrounding clump, often gaining 10 to 100 times their original mass from the clump.
Robert Sanders | EurekAlert!
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