Can magnetized turbulence set the mass scale of stars?

David Guszejnov*, Michael Y. Grudić*, Philip F. Hopkins, Stella S.R. Offner, Claude André Faucher-Giguère

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Understanding the evolution of self-gravitating, isothermal, magnetized gas is crucial for star formation, as these physical processes have been postulated to set the initial mass function (IMF). We present a suite of isothermal magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) simulations using the GIZMO code that follow the formation of individual stars in giant molecular clouds (GMCs), spanning a range of Mach numbers found in observed GMCs (A4 ∼ 10-50). As in past works, the mean and median stellar masses are sensitive to numerical resolution, because they are sensitive to low-mass stars that contribute a vanishing fraction of the overall stellar mass. The mass-weighted median stellar mass M50 becomes insensitive to resolution once turbulent fragmentation is well resolved. Without imposing Larson-like scaling laws, our simulations find M50 ∼ M0-M∼3αturb SFE1/3 for GMC mass M0, sonic Mach number A4, virial parameter αturb, and star formation efficiency SFE = M/M0. This fit agrees well with previous IMF results from the RAMSES, ORION2, and SPHNG codes. Although M50 has no significant dependence on the magnetic field strength at the cloud scale, MHD is necessary to prevent a fragmentation cascade that results in non-convergent stellar masses. For initial conditions and SFE similar to star-forming GMCs in our Galaxy, we predict M50 tobe > 20 M0, an order of magnitude larger than observed (∼ 2M0), together with an excess of brown dwarfs. Moreover, M50 is sensitive to initial cloud properties and evolves strongly in time within a given cloud, predicting much larger IMF variations than are observationally allowed. We conclude that physics beyond MHD turbulence and gravity are necessary ingredients for the IMF.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5072-5088
Number of pages17
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1 2020


  • Cosmology: theory
  • MHD
  • Stars: formation
  • Turbulence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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