Slingshot Mechanism for Clusters: Gas Density Regulates Star Density in the Orion Nebula Cluster (M42) [GA]

We characterize the stellar and gas volume density, potential, and gravitational field profiles in the central $\sim$ 0.5 pc of the Orion Nebula Cluster (ONC), the nearest embedded star cluster (or rather, proto-cluster) hosting massive star formation available for detailed observational scrutiny. We find that the stellar volume density is well characterized by a Plummer profile $\rho_{stars}(r) = 5755\,{\rm M}{\odot}\,{\rm pc}^{-3}\,(1+(r/a)^2)^{-5/2}$, where $a=0.36$ pc. The gas density follows a cylindrical power law $\rho{gas}(R) = 25.9\,{\rm M}_{\odot}\,{\rm pc}^{-3}\,(R/{\rm pc})^{-1.775}$. The stellar density profile dominates over the gas density profile inside $r\,\sim\,1$ pc. The gravitational field is gas-dominated at all radii, but the contribution to the total field by the stars is nearly equal to that of the gas at $r\,\sim\,a$. This fact alone demonstrates that the proto-cluster cannot be considered a virialized system dominated by its own gravity. The proto-cluster core is dynamically young, with a crossing time $\sim$ 0.5 Myr. This timescale is almost identical to the gas filament oscillation timescale estimated recently by Stutz & Gould (2016). This provides strong evidence that the proto-cluster structure is regulated by the gas filament. The proto-cluster structure may be set by tidal forces due to the oscillating filamentary gas potential. Such forces could naturally suppress low density stellar structures on scales $\gtrsim\,a$. The analysis presented here leads to a new suggestion that clusters form by an analog of the “slingshot mechanism” previously proposed for stars.

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A. Stutz
Thu, 18 May 17

Comments: 9 pages, 10 figures, MNRAS submitted