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The impact of thermodynamics on gravitational collapse: filament formation and magnetic field amplification


Peters, Thomas; Schleicher, Dominik R G; Klessen, Ralf S; Banerjee, Robi; Federrath, Christoph; Smith, Rowan J; Sur, Sharanya (2012). The impact of thermodynamics on gravitational collapse: filament formation and magnetic field amplification. Astrophysical Journal Letters, 760(2):L28.

Abstract

Stars form by the gravitational collapse of interstellar gas. The thermodynamic response of the gas can be characterized by an effective equation of state. It determines how gas heats up or cools as it gets compressed, and hence plays a key role in regulating the process of stellar birth on virtually all scales, ranging from individual star clusters up to the galaxy as a whole. We present a systematic study of the impact of thermodynamics on gravitational collapse in the context of high-redshift star formation, but argue that our findings are also relevant for present-day star formation in molecular clouds. We consider a polytropic equation of state, P = kρΓ, with both sub-isothermal exponents Γ < 1 and super-isothermal exponents Γ > 1. We find significant differences between these two cases. For Γ > 1, pressure gradients slow down the contraction and lead to the formation of a virialized, turbulent core. Weak magnetic fields are strongly tangled and efficiently amplified via the small-scale turbulent dynamo on timescales corresponding to the eddy-turnover time at the viscous scale. For Γ < 1, on the other hand, pressure support is not sufficient for the formation of such a core. Gravitational contraction proceeds much more rapidly and the flow develops very strong shocks, creating a network of intersecting sheets and extended filaments. The resulting magnetic field lines are very coherent and exhibit a considerable degree of order. Nevertheless, even under these conditions we still find exponential growth of the magnetic energy density in the kinematic regime.

Abstract

Stars form by the gravitational collapse of interstellar gas. The thermodynamic response of the gas can be characterized by an effective equation of state. It determines how gas heats up or cools as it gets compressed, and hence plays a key role in regulating the process of stellar birth on virtually all scales, ranging from individual star clusters up to the galaxy as a whole. We present a systematic study of the impact of thermodynamics on gravitational collapse in the context of high-redshift star formation, but argue that our findings are also relevant for present-day star formation in molecular clouds. We consider a polytropic equation of state, P = kρΓ, with both sub-isothermal exponents Γ < 1 and super-isothermal exponents Γ > 1. We find significant differences between these two cases. For Γ > 1, pressure gradients slow down the contraction and lead to the formation of a virialized, turbulent core. Weak magnetic fields are strongly tangled and efficiently amplified via the small-scale turbulent dynamo on timescales corresponding to the eddy-turnover time at the viscous scale. For Γ < 1, on the other hand, pressure support is not sufficient for the formation of such a core. Gravitational contraction proceeds much more rapidly and the flow develops very strong shocks, creating a network of intersecting sheets and extended filaments. The resulting magnetic field lines are very coherent and exhibit a considerable degree of order. Nevertheless, even under these conditions we still find exponential growth of the magnetic energy density in the kinematic regime.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute for Computational Science
Dewey Decimal Classification:530 Physics
Language:English
Date:December 2012
Deposited On:22 Jan 2013 16:17
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 16:21
Publisher:IOP Publishing
ISSN:2041-8205
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1088/2041-8205/760/2/L28

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