Journal Article

The role of stellar collisions for the formation of massive stars

H. Baumgardt and R. S. Klessen

in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Published on behalf of The Royal Astronomical Society

Volume 413, issue 3, pages 1810-1818
Published in print May 2011 | ISSN: 0035-8711
Published online May 2011 | e-ISSN: 1365-2966 | DOI:
The role of stellar collisions for the formation of massive stars

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We use direct N-body simulations of gas embedded star clusters to study the importance of stellar collisions for the formation and mass accretion history of high-mass stars. Our clusters start in virial equilibrium as a mix of gas and protostars. Protostars then accrete matter using different mass accretion rates and the amount of gas is reduced in the same way as the mass of stars increases. During the simulations we check for stellar collisions and we investigate the role of these collisions for the build-up of high-mass stars and the formation of runaway stars.

We find that a significant number of collisions only occur in clusters with initial half-mass radii rh≤ 0.1 pc. After emerging from their parental gas clouds, such clusters end up too compact compared to observed young, massive open clusters. In addition, collisions lead mainly to the formation of a single runaway star instead of the formation of many high-mass stars with a broad mass spectrum. We therefore conclude that massive stars form mainly by gas accretion, with stellar collisions only playing a minor role if any at all. Collisions of stars in the pre-main-sequence phase might, however, contribute to the formation of the most massive stars in the densest star clusters and possibly to the formation of intermediate-mass black holes with masses up to a few 100 M.

Keywords: stars: formation; galaxies: star clusters: general

Journal Article.  6509 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics

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