Can massive stars form in low mass clouds?

Jamie D. Smith, Sarah E. Jaffa, Martin G. H. Krause

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The conditions required for massive star formation are debated, particularly whether massive stars must form in conjunction with massive clusters. Some authors have advanced the view that stars of any mass (below the total cluster mass) can form in clusters of any mass with some probability (random sampling). Others pointed out that the scatter in the determinations of the most massive star mass for a given cluster mass was consistent with the measurement error, such that the mass of the most massive star was determined by the total cluster mass (optimal sampling). Here we investigate the relation between cluster mass (M\textsubscript{ecl}) and the maximum stellar mass (M\textsubscript{max}) using a suite of SPH simulations. Varying cloud mass and turbulence random seed results in a range of cluster masses which we compare with their respective maximum star masses. We find that more massive clusters will have, on average, higher mass stars with this trend being steeper at lower cluster masses ($M\textsubscript{max} \propto M\textsubscript{ecl}^{0.31}$ for $M\textsubscript{ecl}500M\,_{\odot}$). This rules out purely stochastic star formation in our simulations. Significant scatter in the maximum masses with identical initial conditions also rules out the possibility that the relation is purely deterministic (that is that a given cluster mass will result in a specific maximum stellar mass). In conclusion our simulations disagree with both random and optimal sampling of the initial mass function.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6182–6190
Number of pages9
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 7 Sept 2023


  • astro-ph.GA


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