The inevitable future of the starless core Barnard 68.
BURKERT A. and ALVES J.
Abstract (from CDS):
Dense, small molecular cloud cores have been identified as the direct progenitors of stars. One of the best studied examples is Barnard 68 which is considered a prototype stable, spherical gas core, confined by a diffuse high-pressure environment. Observations of its radial density structure, however, indicate that Barnard 68 should be gravitationally unstable and collapsing, which appears to be inconsistent with its inferred long lifetime and stability. We argue that Barnard 68 is currently experiencing a fatal collision with another small core which will lead to gravitational collapse. Despite the fact that this system is still in an early phase of interaction, our numerical simulations imply that the future gravitational collapse is already detectable in the outer surface density structure of the globule which mimics the profile of a gravitationally unstable Bonnor-Ebert sphere. Within the next 2x105 years, Barnard 68 will condense into a low-mass solar-type star(s), formed in isolation, and surrounded by diffuse, hot interstellar gas. As witnessed in situ for Barnard 68, core mergers might in general play an important role in triggering star formation and shaping the molecular core mass distribution and by that also the stellar initial mass function.