Mon. Not. R. Astron. Soc., 354, 367-374 (2004/October-3)
Variability in the stellar initial mass function at low and high mass: three-component IMF models.
Abstract (from CDS):
Three-component models of the initial mass function (IMF) are made to consider possible origins for the observed relative variations in the numbers of brown dwarfs, solar-to-intermediate-mass stars and high-mass stars. The differences between the IMFs observed for clusters, field and remote field are also discussed. Three distinct physical processes that should dominate the three stellar mass regimes are noted. The characteristic mass for most star formation is identified with the thermal Jeans mass in the molecular cloud core, and this presumably leads to the middle mass range by the usual collapse and accretion processes. Pre-stellar condensations (PSCs) observed in millimetre-wave continuum studies presumably form at this mass. Significantly smaller self-gravitating masses require much larger pressures and may arise following dynamical processes inside these PSCs, including disc formation, tight-cluster ejection, and photoevaporation as studied elsewhere, but also gravitational collapse of shocked gas in colliding PSCs. Significantly larger stellar masses form in relatively low abundance by normal cloud processes, possibly leading to steep IMFs in low-pressure field regions, but this mass range can be significantly extended in high-pressure cloud cores by gravitationally focused gas accretion on to PSCs and by the coalescence of PSCs. These models suggest that the observed variations in brown dwarf, solar-to-intermediate-mass and high-mass populations are the result of dynamical effects that depend on environmental density and velocity dispersion. They accommodate observations ranging from shallow IMFs in cluster cores to Salpeter IMFs in average clusters and whole galaxies to steep and even steeper IMFs in field and remote field regions. They also suggest how the top-heavy IMFs in some starburst clusters may originate and they explain bottom-heavy IMFs in low surface brightness galaxies.
stars: formation - stars: luminosity function, mass function - ISM: clouds