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On the Origin of Stellar Masses

. (2011)cite arxiv:1109.1564 Comment: 7 pages, 5 figures, emulateapj format. Accepted to ApJ.

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It has been a longstanding problem to determine, as far as possible, the characteristic masses of stars in terms of fundamental constants; the almost complete invariance of this mass as a function of the star-forming environment suggests that this should be possible. Here I provide such a calculation. The typical stellar mass is set by the characteristic fragment mass in a star-forming cloud, which depends on the cloud's density and temperature structure. Except in the very early universe, the latter is determined mainly by the radiation released as matter falls onto seed protostars. The energy yield from this process is ultimately set by the properties of deuterium burning in protostellar cores, which determines the stars' radii. I show that it is possible to combine these considerations to compute a characteristic stellar mass almost entirely in terms of fundamental constants, with an extremely weak residual dependence on the interstellar pressure and metallicity. This result not only explains the invariance of stellar masses, it resolves a second mystery: why fragmentation of a cold, low-density interstellar cloud, a process with no obvious dependence on the properties of nuclear reactions, happens to select a stellar mass scale such that stellar cores can ignite hydrogen. Finally, the weak residual dependence on the interstellar pressure and metallicity may explain recent observational hints of a smaller characteristic mass in the high pressure, high metallicity cores of giant elliptical galaxies.


[1109.1564] On the Origin of Stellar Masses

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