Washington: The Herschel Space Observatory has revealed that the star forming sites across the Milky Way are riddled with filaments: tube-like structures of gas and dust that span tens of parsecs [1 parsec = 3.26 light-years] within molecular clouds.
In the study, an international team of researchers of the Gould Belt Herschel Consortium led by Danae Polychroni, of the University of Athens and formerly at INAF/IAPS, has investigated the relationship between filaments and the characteristics of the embryonic stars that form within them.
Using the L1641 molecular cloud that is part of the Orion A complex, the team showed that the mass distributions of the forming stars, which will become the IMF of that stellar population, are similar yet distinct for stars forming in the field (outside of the filaments) and on the filaments, with the former peaking at smaller mass values than the latter.
In other words, stars forming within filaments tend to be more massive than stars forming in the field.
Dr. Polychroni said that they believe the reason for this is simply that on the filaments the embryonic stars have access to more `food`, or as we say there is more gas and dust available for these objects to accrete from, and grow bigger than their poor cousins in the field that are `starved.`
He said that if this result is confirmed by future studies it would mean that the initial mass function is not dependent on how the stars form but on the availability of material nearby the embryonic stars from which they accrete their mass.
The study has been published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.