Search for the Precursors of the Highest Mass Stars in the Universe

High-mass stars play a hugely important role in many aspects of astrophysics, however, their formation and early stages in their evolution are still poorly understood!

Massive stars are born within Giant Molecular Cloud complexes and reach the main sequence on very short timescales such that finding true massive protostars remains a challenge. In particular, finding and characterizing the massive clumps prior to the onset of star formation is still one of the outstanding problems in star formation research.

In an effort to identify massive clumps in their earliest stages we have conducted a survey using ALMA to map a large sample of quiescent clumps identified by the ATLASGAL submillimetre survey. In total, 238 clumps have been map at high angular resolution and is now being used to investigate the structure and dynamics of these very young regions to help us develop a deeper understanding of the initial conditions required for star formation and mechanisms involved. This huge data sets considers of dust continuum and molecular line emission, which will allow for a large number of star forming cores to be identified and their physical properties to be determined.

This project will be focused on the detailed chemical and physical characterisation of the sample as well as comparison with numerical models. Important problems like how the clump properties relate to the core properties (e.g. surface density of the clump and clustering on core scales, decay of turbulence etc) will be tackled. A complete line identification, simple LTE based column density determination and abundance analysis for the whole sample is also essential.

For more information please contact Dr James Urquhart