Astronomy

Do young star clusters follow the law?

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Science  10 Oct 2014:
Vol. 346, Issue 6206, pp. 205
DOI: 10.1126/science.346.6206.205-a
PHOTO: NASA/JPL-CALTECH/STSCI

One of the enduring puzzles of astrophysics is how mass is distributed among a population of stars at their birth. Astronomers currently use modified power-law functions in an attempt to describe the initial mass function (IMF), effectively a histogram of stellar masses. Sami Dib employed Bayesian statistics to find the probability distributions of IMF parameters for eight young star clusters with similar environments and ages, in order to discover if a universally descriptive IMF exists. Surprisingly, the resulting parameters did not overlap (within 1 sigma), suggesting that there is no universal description for young clusters. These findings demonstrate the power and necessity of Bayesian statistics in IMF studies as next-generation telescopes that can resolve stellar populations in many more clusters come online.

Mon. Not. R. Astron. Soc. 10.1093/mnras/stu1521 (2014).

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