Linking high- and low-mass star formation: Observation-based continuum modelling and physical conditions

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Context. Astronomers have yet to establish whether high-mass protostars form from high-mass prestellar cores, similar to their lower-mass counterparts, or from lower-mass fragments at the heart of a pre-protostellar cluster undergoing large-scale collapse. Part of the uncertainty is due to a shortage of envelope structure data on protostars of a few tens of solar masses, where we expect to see a transition from intermediate-mass star formation to the high-mass process. Aims. We sought to derive the masses, luminosities, and envelope density profiles for eight sources in Cygnus-X, whose mass estimates in the literature placed them in the sampling gap. Combining these sources with similarly evolved sources in the literature enabled us to perform a meta-analysis of protostellar envelope parameters over six decades in source luminosity. Methods. We performed spectral energy distribution fitting on archival broadband photometric continuum data from 1.2 to 850 μm to derive bolometric luminosities for our eight sources plus initial mass and radius estimates for modelling density and temperature profiles with the radiative-transfer package Transphere. Results. The envelope masses, densities at 1000 AU, outer envelope radii, and density power law indices as functions of bolometric luminosity all follow established trends in the literature spanning six decades in luminosity. Most of our sources occupy an intermediate to moderately high range of masses and luminosities, which helps to more firmly establish the continuity between low- and high-mass star formation mechanisms. Our density power law indices are consistent with observed values in the literature, which show no discernible trends with luminosity, and have a mean p = -1.4 ± 0.4. However, our sub-sample, with a mean power law index of -1.1 ± 0.3, is slightly flatter than would be expected for spherical envelopes in free fall (p = -1.5). Conclusions. We attribute flattened density profiles for our eight sources to one or more of the following: ongoing accretion from their natal filaments, convolution of sources with neighbours or the larger filament, spherical averaging of asymmetric features (for example fragments), or inflation of the envelope by a moderate far-ultraviolet field. Finally, we show that the trends in all of the envelope parameters for high-mass protostars are statistically indistinguishable from trends in the same variables for low-mass protostars.

TidsskriftAstronomy and Astrophysics
Antal sider26
StatusUdgivet - 2022

Bibliografisk note

Funding Information:
Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology under a contract with NASA. Support for this work was provided by an award issued by JPL/Caltech. This research also made use of data products from the Midcourse Space Experiment. Processing of the data was funded by the Ballistic Missile Defense Organisation with additional support from NASA Office of Space Science. This publication makes use of data products from the Two Micron All Sky Survey, which is a joint project of the University of Massachusetts and the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center/California Institute of Technology, funded by the NASA and the National Science Foundation. This research also used the facilities of the Canadian Astronomy Data Centre (CADC) operated by the National Research Council of Canada with the support of the Canadian Space Agency. This research made use of Astropy (, a community-developed core Python package for Astronomy (Astropy Collaboration 2013, 2018).

Funding Information:
cA knolw edgemen. The research of R.L.P. and L.E.K. is supported by a research grant (19127) from VILLUM FONDEN. J.K.J. acknowledges support from the Independent Research Fund Denmark (grant number DFF0135-00123B). This research has made use of the NASA/IPAC Infrared Science Archive, which is operated by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). This research was made possible with the use of the Submillimeter Array. The Submillimeter Array is a joint project between the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and the Academia Sinica Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics and is funded by the Smithsonian Institution and the Academia Sinica. This research used archival data from Hers hel , an ESA space observatory with science instruments provided by European-led Principal Investigator consortia and with important participation from NASA. This work is based in part on archival data obtained with the Spitzer Space Telescope, which was operated by the Jet

Publisher Copyright:
© ESO 2022.

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