The Nature of the Dense Core Population in the Pipe Nebula: Thermal Cores Under Pressure

Charles J. Lada, A. A. Muench, J. Rathborne, João F. Alves, M. Lombardi

In this paper we present the results of a systematic investigation of an entire population of predominately starless dust cores within a single molecular cloud, the Pipe Nebula. Analysis of extinction data shows the cores to be dense objects characterized by a narrow range of density with a median value of n(H2)=7×103. The non-thermal velocity dispersions measured in molecular emission lines are found to be subsonic for the large majority of the cores and show no correlation with core mass (or size). Thermal pressure is found to be the dominate source of internal gas pressure and support for most of the core population. The total internal pressures of the cores are found to be roughly independent of core mass over the entire (0.2-20Msolar) range of the core mass function (CMF) indicating that the cores are in pressure equilibrium with an external source of pressure. This external pressure is most likely provided by the weight of the surrounding molecular cloud. Most of the cores appear to be pressure confined, gravitationally unbound entities whose fundamental physical properties are determined by only a few factors, which include self-gravity, gas temperature, and the simple requirement of pressure equilibrium with the surrounding environment. The entire core population is found to be characterized by a single critical Bonnor-Ebert mass of approximately 2 Msolar. This mass coincides with the characteristic mass of the Pipe CMF suggesting that the CMF (and ultimately the stellar IMF) has its origin in the physical process of thermal fragmentation in a pressurized medium.

Department of Astrophysics
External organisation(s)
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, European Southern Observatory (Germany), Universitá degli Studi di Milano
The Astrophysical Journal: an international review of astronomy and astronomical physics
Publication date
Peer reviewed
Austrian Fields of Science 2012
103004 Astrophysics
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