Star and Planet Formation: Nature vs Nurture
Dr Steve Longmore
The conversion of gas into stars is one of the fundamental processes shaping the visible Universe. It underpins our understanding of cosmic evolution from the epoch of re-ionization, through to the visible structure and chemical enrichment of galaxies, down to the formation of planetary systems and eventually life itself. Yet, despite being a cornerstone of astrophysics and cosmology, and lying at the foundations of how we understand our own place in the Universe, we still do not understand what physics governs this process.
At the heart of the problem is a question of Nature vs Nurture: Is the process of stellar mass assembly a “universal” process regardless of where stars form? Or does this process depend strongly on the natal environment? Solving this question requires detailed studies of star forming regions in widely different environments. Such studies must focus on the earliest possible evolutionary stages, before feedback from young stars has disrupted the pristine initial conditions. By studying a sample of pre-star-forming clouds in two widely different environments – namely the centre and disk of our Galaxy – this thesis project will aim to do exactly that.