Earliest stages of protocluster formation: Substructure and kinematics of starless cores in Orion

Katherine Lee, Leslie W. Looney, Scott Schnee, Zhi Yun Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We study the structure and kinematics of nine 0.1 pc scale cores in Orion with the IRAM 30 m telescope and at higher resolution eight of the cores with CARMA, using CS(2-1) as the main tracer. The single-dish moment zero maps of the starless cores show single structures with central column densities ranging from 7 to 42 × 1023 cm-2 and LTE masses from 20 MO to 154 MO. However, at the higher CARMA resolution (5″), all of the cores except one fragment into 3-5 components. The number of fragments is small compared to that found in some turbulent fragmentation models, although inclusion of magnetic fields may reduce the predicted fragment number and improve the model agreement. This result demonstrates that fragmentation from parsec-scale molecular clouds to sub-parsec cores continues to take place inside the starless cores. The starless cores and their fragments are embedded in larger filamentary structures, which likely played a role in the core formation and fragmentation. Most cores show clear velocity gradients, with magnitudes ranging from 1.7 to 14.3 km s-1 pc-1. We modeled one of them in detail, and found that its spectra are best explained by a converging flow along a filament toward the core center; the gradients in other cores may be modeled similarly. We infer a mass inflow rate of ∼2 × 10-3 MO yr-1, which is in principle high enough to overcome radiation pressure and allow for massive star formation. However, the core contains multiple fragments, and it is unclear whether the rapid inflow would feed the growth of primarily a single massive star or a cluster of lower mass objects. We conclude that fast, supersonic converging flow along filaments play an important role in massive star and cluster formation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number100
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 1 2013


  • ISM: clouds
  • radio lines: stars
  • stars: formation
  • stars: massive

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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