This figure shows star formation occurring along a filamentary region of gas corresponding to part of a spiral arm. The colour scale shows gas column density. Some of the stars (black points) still correspond to part of the filament, others lie in an apparently low density region which is highly ionised.

Star cluster formation and evolution

Supervisor: Dr Clare Dobbs

There is still much we don’t understand about stellar clusters, including how they form and how they evolve. One of the big questions is how young massive clusters (YMCs) form, given that they are extremely massive and dense, and contain only very young stars. We also are not clear how these clusters evolve - a novel idea recently put forward is that some could be the progenitors of globular clusters. More typically, young clusters such as OB associations are less massive and less dense and likely disperse slowly over time. One of the major questions for the evolution of these clusters is how the gas and stars decouple and whether the gas loss from the cluster has a major role on its evolution.

This project will involve performing numerical hydrodynamic + Nbody simulations to model cluster formation and evolution to try and understand more about young clusters. These simulations may be of regions along spiral arms in galaxies (see figure, right), or simply colliding flows of gas. As well as investigating setting up appropriate initial conditions, and analysing the resulting clusters, the applicant will also likely be involved in working on improving the stellar feedback scheme in our numerical code, which models processes such as supernovae and ionisation from young stars. Further directions this project could take include following the clusters for long time periods using AMUSE (a modular, multiscale framework for combining hydrodynamics; N-body gravity and other physics in simulations) or on larger scale investigating the role of bars or different types of spiral arm on cluster formation.

For more details on this project please contact Dr Clare Dobbs.