RSAA Colloquia / Seminars / Feast-of-Facts: Tuesday, 01 August 2017, 10:30-11:30; Duffield Lecture Theatre

Christoph Federrath

"The big challenges in star formation"

Star formation determines the evolution of galaxies and sets the initial conditions for planet formation. I will review our progress and the big challenges in modelling and understanding star formation for the next decade. Recent advances in the development of numerical algorithms for modelling turbulence, magnetic fields, and feedback, combined with enormous supercomputing power will allow us to understand the unexpected low star formation rate in the Milky Way. We are now in the position to predict the star formation rate of galaxies over cosmic time with all the necessary physics and chemistry included. However, a major challenge remains: the theoretical understanding of the observed initial mass function (IMF) of stars, i.e., the mass distribution of stars when they are born. I will show that the code development advances here at RSAA will allow us to predict the IMF from first principles, in order to determine whether the IMF is a universal function or not and what it depends on. We will further be able to attack the fundamental problem of the formation of the very first stars in the Universe. This too requires modelling of highly complex, intrinsically three-dimensional physical processes (turbulence, magnetic fields and feedback) that only we as a group at RSAA are currently capable of combining, to build a comprehensive theory of the origin of stellar masses. We will thus have the chance to become the leading institute for computational astrophysics in Australia and to produce the top theories and simulations of star formation world-wide.