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Astron. Astrophys. 342, 515-523 (1999)

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The onset of cluster formation around Herbig Ae/Be stars

Leonardo Testi 1,2, Francesco Palla 2 and Antonella Natta 2

1 Division of Physics, Mathematics and Astronomy, California Institute of Technology, MS 105-24, Pasadena, CA 91125, USA
2 Osservatorio Astrofisico di Arcetri, Largo E. Fermi 5, I-50125 Firenze, Italy

Received 20 July 1998 / Accepted 12 November 1998


The large body of near infrared observations presented in Testi et al. (1997; 1998) are analysed with the aim of characterizing the young stellar clusters surrounding Herbig Ae/Be stars. The results confirm the tendency of early Be stars to be surrounded by dense clusters of lower mass "companions", while Ae stars are never found to be associated with conspicuous groups. The transition between the different environments appears to occur smoothly from Ae to Be stars without a sharp threshold.

No correlation of the richness of the stellar groups detected is found with the galactic position or the age of the central Herbig Ae/Be star.

The stellar volume densities estimated for the groups surrounding pre-main-sequence stars of intermediate mass show the transition from the low density aggregates of T Tauri stars and the dense clusters around massive stars.

Only the most massive stars (10-20 [FORMULA]) are found to be associated with dense ([FORMULA]) stellar clusters. This is exactly the mass regime at which the conventional accretion scenario for isolated star formation faces theoretical problems. Thus our findings strongly supports the idea that the formation of high-mass stars is influenced by dynamical interaction in a young cluster environment.

Key words: stars: formation – stars: pre-main sequence – infrared: stars – open clusters and associations: general

Send offprint requests to: L. Testi (lt@astro.caltech.edu)

© European Southern Observatory (ESO) 1999

Online publication: February 22, 1999