Pilot Project P1: The Multi-Scale Physics of Star Formation and Feedback in the Building Blocks of the Milky Way
J.M. Diederik Kruijssen (ARI)
The goal of this project is to advance our understanding of cloud-scale star formation and feedback in the Magellanic Clouds. These dwarf galaxies are reminiscent of the building blocks that formed the stellar halo of the Milky Way, which contains a large population of old stars that must have formed billions of years ago and since have been accreted by tidal stripping of their natal systems. Because it happened so long ago, it is not known how these stars formed.
The unknown physics of star formation and feedback represent a major unsolved problem in modern astrophysics. Even state-of-the-art simulations of galaxy formation describe star formation using galactic scaling relations, which are known to fail on the small spatial scales resolved by these simulations. This ad-hoc description is driven by a lack of representative empirical input – the cloud-scale star formation process is unresolved in galaxies beyond the Milky Way.
In this subproject, we aim to quantitatively characterise the physics of star formation and the feedback of energy and momentum from massive stars. In particular, we will obtain the fundamental quantities describing both processes by empirically deriving the evolutionary timeline of star-forming regions. Although it has traditionally been difficult in astronomy to put processes on an absolute timeline, we can now do so using a novel statistical method that we recently developed. Using this technique, we will make the first accurate measurement of the duration of the different phases of the star formation process.