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Astron. Astrophys. 359, 1025-1034 (2000)

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On the formation of massive stars by accretion

P. Norberg 1 and A. Maeder 2

1 Department of Physics, University of Durham, Durham DH1 3LE, UK
2 Observatoire de Genève, 1290 Sauverny, Switzerland

Received 2 February 2000 / Accepted 18 May 2000


At present, there are two scenarios for the formation of massive stars: 1) The accretion scenario and 2) The coalescence scenario, which implies the merging of intermediate mass stars. We examine here some properties of the first one. Radio and IR observations by Churchwell (1999) and Henning et al. (2000) of mass outflows around massive Pre-Main Sequence (PMS) stars show an increase by several orders of magnitudes of the outflow rates with stellar luminosities, and thus with stellar masses. As typically, a fraction of [FORMULA] to [FORMULA] of the infalling material is estimated to be accreted, this suggests that the accretion rate is also quickly increasing with the stellar mass.

We calculate three different sets of birthlines, i.e. tracks followed by a continuously accreting star. First, three models with a constant accretion rate ([FORMULA] = [FORMULA], [FORMULA], [FORMULA] [FORMULA] yr-1). Then several birthlines following the accretion models of Bernasconi & Maeder (1996), which have [FORMULA] increasing only slightly with mass. Finally we calculate several birthlines for which [FORMULA], with values of [FORMULA] equal to 0.5, 1.0 and 1.5 and also for different values of [FORMULA]. The best fit to the observations of PMS stars in the HR diagram is achieved for [FORMULA] between 1.0 or 1.5 and for [FORMULA] [FORMULA] yr-1. Considerations on the lifetimes favour values of [FORMULA] equal to 1.5. These accretion rates do well correspond to those derived from radio and IR observations of mass outflows. Moreover they also lie in the "permitted region" of the dynamical models given by Wolfire & Cassinelli (1987).

We emphasize the importance of the accretion scenario for shaping the IMF, and in particular for determining the upper mass limit of stars. In the accretion scenario, this upper mass limit will be given by the mass for which the accretion rate is such that the accretion induced shock luminosity is of the order of the Eddington luminosity.

Key words: accretion, accretion disks – stars: evolution – stars: pre-main sequence

Send offprint requests to: P. Norberg (peder.norberg@durham.ac.uk)

© European Southern Observatory (ESO) 2000

Online publication: July 13, 2000