Presentation #114.05 in the session “High-mass Star Formation”.
The stellar initial mass function (IMF) describes the distribution of masses of newly formed stars, which underpins assumptions about star formation across multiple fields of astronomy. Its precise shape is difficult to measure directly due to the challenges in observing a full zero-age stellar population; many methods of probing the IMF exist, but most are necessarily indirect. A potentially promising avenue rests in measurements of the masses of prestellar clouds of gas and dust, or “cores”. Measurements of the “core mass function” (CMF) show the mass distribution of cores to be similar in shape to the IMF but shifted to higher mass; in one picture of star formation, a protostar forms by accreting a fraction of the mass from a surrounding core. Measuring the CMF in sites of star formation may therefore be used to infer an IMF which, while still indirect, remains on the stellar scale and is directly dependent on the local physics. However, the conclusions drawn from these observations can vary significantly depending on the assumptions about the nature of star formation. I outline a framework combining protostellar evolutionary tracks generated through a stellar evolution code with grids of radiative transfer models to simulate the evolution of protostellar clusters. Sampling the cores and protostars from some mass function will allow forward modeling of the evolution to an IMF with the ability to modify the underlying mechanisms of accretion. The framework will provide predictions of the measurable flux across a wide wavelength range at any time in the evolution of the cluster as a function of the internal mechanics. I also discuss an extension of the framework to the Paschen-α and Brackett-γ emission lines associated with accretion which provides predictions for the planned PASHION mission and JWST.