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The Formation of Massive Star Systems by Accretion

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Science  06 Feb 2009:
Vol. 323, Issue 5915, pp. 754-757
DOI: 10.1126/science.1165857

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Abstract

Massive stars produce so much light that the radiation pressure they exert on the gas and dust around them is stronger than their gravitational attraction, a condition that has long been expected to prevent them from growing by accretion. We present three-dimensional radiation-hydrodynamic simulations of the collapse of a massive prestellar core and find that radiation pressure does not halt accretion. Instead, gravitational and Rayleigh-Taylor instabilities channel gas onto the star system through nonaxisymmetric disks and filaments that self-shield against radiation while allowing radiation to escape through optically thin bubbles. Gravitational instabilities cause the disk to fragment and form a massive companion to the primary star. Radiation pressure does not limit stellar masses, but the instabilities that allow accretion to continue lead to small multiple systems.

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