AAS 201st Meeting, January, 2003
Session 112. The ISM: Clouds and Regions
Poster, Thursday, January 9, 2003, 9:20am-4:00pm, Exhibit Hall AB

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[112.10] Nonlinear Thin Shell Instabilities in Molecular Clouds

R. M. Hueckstaedt (Los Alamos National Laboratory)

Observations of molecular clouds point to the existence of supersonic, turbulent flows. Therefore, any theory which attempts to describe molecular cloud evolution and star formation must include a consideration of the dynamics of colliding flows. Previous studies have considered the collision of supersonic streams or clouds. The resultant instabilities provide a mechanism which may give rise to observable cloud morphologies and enhance the star formation rate. One such instability is the nonlinear thin shell instability (NTSI) of a shock-bounded slab. This process is driven by ram pressure and rapid cooling. In this study, I use numerical simulations to examine the head-on collision of supersonic gas streams in a cold, molecular gas. A dense slab forms in the collision midplane and is prone to a number of instabilities, including the NTSI. The thermodynamic processes involved are found to have a controlling influence upon the instability and fragmentation of the slab. Although some minimal amount of cooling is needed to drive the instability, too rapid a cooling rate gives rise to smaller wavelength instabilities which wipe out the NTSI. The growth rate of the NTSI in a gas undergoing molecular cooling corresponds to a timescale of order 1012 s, in general agreement with the theoretical value for an isothermal gas. The NTSI may provide a viable mechanism for the instigation of rapid star formation.

The author(s) of this abstract have provided an email address for comments about the abstract: rmhx@lanl.gov

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