Formation of magnetized prestellar cores with ambipolar diffusion and turbulence

Che Yu Chen, Eve Charis Ostriker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

95 Scopus citations


We investigate the roles of magnetic fields and ambipolar diffusion during prestellar core formation in turbulent giant molecular clouds, using three-dimensional numerical simulations. Our simulations focus on the shocked layer produced by a converging large-scale flow and survey varying ionization and the angle between the upstream flow and magnetic field. We also include ideal magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) and hydrodynamic models. From our simulations, we identify hundreds of self-gravitating cores that form within 1 Myr, with masses M 0.04-2.5 M and sizes L 0.015-0.07 pc, consistent with observations of the peak of the core mass function. Median values are M = 0.47 M and L = 0.03 pc. Core masses and sizes do not depend on either the ionization or upstream magnetic field direction. In contrast, the mass-to-flux ratio does increase with lower ionization, from twice to four times the critical value. The higher mass-to-flux ratio for low ionization is the result of enhanced transient ambipolar diffusion when the shocked layer first forms. However, ambipolar diffusion is not necessary to form low-mass supercritical cores. For ideal MHD, we find similar masses to other cases. These masses are one to two orders of magnitude lower than the value M mag, sph = 0.007B 3/(G 3/2ρ2) that defines a magnetically supercritical sphere under post-shock ambient conditions. This discrepancy is the result of anisotropic contraction along field lines, which is clearly evident in both ideal MHD and diffusive simulations. We interpret our numerical findings using a simple scaling argument that suggests that gravitationally critical core masses will depend on the sound speed and mean turbulent pressure in a cloud, regardless of magnetic effects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number69
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 10 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • ISM: magnetic fields
  • diffusion
  • magnetohydrodynamics (MHD)
  • stars: formation
  • turbulence


Dive into the research topics of 'Formation of magnetized prestellar cores with ambipolar diffusion and turbulence'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this