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Star Formation in Extreme Environments near Supermassive Black Holes and in Massive Star Clusters

The formation of stars is a fundamental astrophysical process; and yet we still debate whether it varies with environment. Milky Way young star clusters range in mass over four orders of magnitude; but, the best-studied star forming regions, such as Taurus and Orion, represent only a small range of initial conditions at the low mass end. Young star clusters with masses greater than 10,000 solar masses are promising targets for determining whether the initial mass function (IMF) that results from the star formation process is universal or depends on environment. Such clusters are challenging observational targets as they require high spatial resolution at infrared wavelengths and are heavily contaminated by field stars. I present results from a Keck adaptive optics and HST study of several massive young star clusters in the Milky Way, including around the supermassive black hole at the Galactic Center. IMFs are constructed by using high-precision astrometry and spectroscopy to distinguish individual cluster stars. I will discuss whether the measured IMFs differ for massive clusters at a range of Galactocentric radii and how they compare to the “universal” IMF established locally.

Cody Hall

Jessica Lu (U of Hawaii)

October 19, 2012
14:00 - 15:00