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Onset of Star Formation: Connecting Theory and Observations (SFOnset)
Start date: Dec 1, 2012, End date: Nov 30, 2016 PROJECT  FINISHED 

Star formation is one of the most active areas of both theoretical astrophysics and observational astronomy. The formulation of a theory of star formation is essential not only for understanding the origin of our own solar system and, ultimately, of life itself, but also for the development of a theory of galaxy formation and evolution. We propose a comprehensive study of observational signatures of a variety of prestellar molecular cloud core models, aimed at probing the initial conditions of star formation and the origin of protostars. We will conduct this study in three steps. First, we will follow the dynamical evolution of molecular cloud cores using different models (such as pure hydrodynamical collapse; magnetically modulated collapse; and collapse with and without the effect of rotation). Second, we will couple these models to a network of chemical reactions that will self-consistently follow the relative abundances for ~100 molecular species, by solving the chemical reactions simultaneously with the dynamical equations. Third, we will couple these calculations to both continuum and line radiative transfer solvers, which will enable us to produce both maps and spectra of core models. Finally, the convolution of our results with the instrumental capabilities of different observatories (such as Herschel and SOFIA) will produce sets of mock observations, which will allow us to: (a) assess the potential of observations with different instruments to differentiate between models for the dynamics of prestellar cores; (b) propose specific observations with maximal scientific return in the discrimination between dynamical models; and (c) for existing observations, offer interpretation in terms of their consistency with each dynamical model examined.
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