Analysis of clumps in molecular cloud models: Mass spectrum, shapes, alignment, and rotation

Charles F. Gammie, Yen Ting Lin, James McLellan Stone, Eve Charis Ostriker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

95 Scopus citations


Observations reveal concentrations of molecular line emission on the sky, called "clumps," in dense, starforming molecular clouds. These clumps are believed to be the eventual sites of star formation. We study the three-dimensional analogs of clumps using a set of self-consistent, time-dependent numerical models of molecular clouds. The models follow the decay of initially supersonic turbulence in an isothermal, self-gravitating, magnetized fluid. We find the following. (1) Clumps are intrinsically triaxial. This explains the observed deficit of clumps with a projected axis ratio near unity, and the apparent prolateness of clumps. (2) Simulated clump axes are not strongly aligned with the mean magnetic field within clumps nor with the large-scale mean fields. This is in agreement with observations. (3) The clump mass spectrum has a high-mass slope that is consistent with the Salpeter value. There is a low-mass break in the slope at ∼0.5 M, although this may depend on model parameters including numerical resolution. (4) The typical specific spin angular momentum of clumps is 4 × 1022 cm2 s-1. This is larger than the median specific angular momentum of binary stars. Scaling arguments suggest that higher resolution simulations may soon be able to resolve the scales at which the angular momentum of binary stars is determined.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)203-216
Number of pages14
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1 I
StatePublished - Jul 20 2003

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • ISM: clouds
  • ISM: molecules
  • MHD
  • Methods: numerical
  • Stars: formation


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