Stellar mass spectrum within massive collapsing clumps
II. Thermodynamics and tidal forces of the first Larson core. A robust mechanism for the peak of the IMF
91191 Gif-sur-Yvette, France
2 Université Paris Diderot, AIM, Sorbonne Paris Cité, CEA, CNRS, 91191 Gif-sur-Yvette, France
3 Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris, Sorbonne Paris Cité, Université Paris Diderot, UMR 7154 CNRS, 75005 Paris, France
4 LERMA (UMR CNRS 8112), Ecole Normale Supérieure, 75231 Paris Cedex, France
Accepted: 4 November 2017
Context. Understanding the origin of the initial mass function (IMF) of stars is a major problem for the star formation process and beyond.
Aim. We investigate the dependence of the peak of the IMF on the physics of the so-called first Larson core, which corresponds to the point where the dust becomes opaque to its own radiation.
Methods. We performed numerical simulations of collapsing clouds of 1000 M⊙ for various gas equations of state (eos), paying great attention to the numerical resolution and convergence. The initial conditions of these numerical experiments are varied in the companion paper. We also develop analytical models that we compare to our numerical results.
Results. When an isothermal eos is used, we show that the peak of the IMF shifts to lower masses with improved numerical resolution. When an adiabatic eos is employed, numerical convergence is obtained. The peak position varies with the eos, and using an analytical model to infer the mass of the first Larson core, we find that the peak position is about ten times its value. By analyzing the stability of nonlinear density fluctuations in the vicinity of a point mass and then summing over a reasonable density distribution, we find that tidal forces exert a strong stabilizing effect and likely lead to a preferential mass several times higher than that of the first Larson core.
Conclusions. We propose that in a sufficiently massive and cold cloud, the peak of the IMF is determined by the thermodynamics of the high-density adiabatic gas as well as the stabilizing influence of tidal forces. The resulting characteristic mass is about ten times the mass of the first Larson core, which altogether leads to a few tenths of solar masses. Since these processes are not related to the large-scale physical conditions and to the environment, our results suggest a possible explanation for the apparent universality of the peak of the IMF.
Key words: ISM: clouds / ISM: structure / turbulence / stars: formation
© ESO 2018