Molecular Studies of Galactic Star Formation and the ISM

The interstellar medium (ISM) is the material that fills in the gaps between stars, and is made of a mixture of gas, mainly hydrogen, and dust grains. The growing body of observations reveals that this matter has a rich chemistry with more than 200 identified atomic and molecular species. The ISM is organised in large structures, 1-100 parsecs, of gas and dust differing in densities and temperatures, known as interstellar clouds. Dense interstellar clouds called molecular clouds are the sites for star formation.

Understanding the processes by which stars and planets form in the cold and dark interiors of molecular clouds continues to be one of the most fascinating challenges of modern astrophysics.

Our group is involved in studies of both low and high mass stars, in our own as well as in external galaxies.  We focus on the modelling and on the interpretation of sub millimeter molecular data by using astrochemical and radiative transfer models created by our group. In particular we are interested in the study of warm and hot cores (see respectively Awad et al. 2010 and Viti et al. 2004 for examples): Hot cores are dense (107 cm-3), hot (300-500K) clumps of gas and dust in the vicinity of massive star forming regions, and their chemistry is very rich. Warm cores, or hot corinos, are the very compact (~10^8 cm-3) and warm (~100K) regions surrounding low mass stars; they also exhibit a rich organic chemistry. Both type of cores can be used as 'tracers' of low and high mass star formation and via the  interpretation of the molecular emission from these objects one can determine the physical characteristics of the environments where stars form as well as their evolutionary status.

Other work our group is interested in include studies of: diffuse and translucent clouds (e.g. Cecchi-Pestellini et al. 2009); outflows (e.g. Benedettini et al. 2007, Codella et al. 2006, 2009); clumpiness in the ISM (e.g. Viti et al. 2006).

Credit:  Zainab Awad and Dr. Serena Viti

For more information please contact Dr. Serena Viti

Page last modified on 16 jul 10 14:42 by Fabrizio Sidoli