AAS 196th Meeting, June 2000
Session 4. Young Stars and Their Environments
Display, Monday, June 5, 2000, 9:20am-6:30pm, Empire Hall South

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[4.10] Modeling a High Mass Turn Down in the Stellar Initial Mass Function

B.G. Elmegreen (IBM Watson)

Statistical sampling from the stellar initial mass function for all star-forming regions in the Galaxy would lead to the prediction of 1000 Msun stars unless there is a rapid turn-down in the IMF beyond several hundred solar masses. Such a turndown is not necessary for dense clusters because the number of stars sampled is always too small. Although no upper mass limits to star formation have ever been observed, a theory for the IMF should be able to explain the lack of supermassive stars in normal galaxy disks.

We explore several mechanisms for an upper mass cutoff, including an exponential decline of the star formation probability after a turbulent crossing time. The results are in good agreement with the observed IMF over the entire stellar mass range, and they give a gradual turn down compared to the Salpeter function above 100 Msun for normal thermal Jeans mass. However, they cannot give both the observed power-law IMF out to the high-mass sampling limit in dense clusters (~120 Msun), as well as the observed lack of ~300 Msun stars in whole galaxy disks. The assumed exponential decline is too slow for this. Either there is a sharp upper mass cutoff in the IMF, perhaps from self-limitation, or the IMF is different for dense clusters than for the majority of star formation that occurs at lower density. In the latter case, dense clusters would have to form an overabundance of massive stars relative to the average IMF in a galaxy. Evidence for a difference in the cluster and field IMFs supports this picture, but systematic effects could mimic this evidence even with a universal IMF.

Research Supported by NSF AST-9870112.

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