Alfvén waves in low-mass star-forming regions
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Low-mass star-forming regions have a lifetime which is greater than their dynamical time and must therefore be, in an average sense, in mechanical equilibrium. The work presented here proposes that an equilibrium exists between the self-gravity, gas pressure, and the magnetic field and the waves it supports. Specifically the equilibrium in the direction perpendicular to the ordered magnetic field is given by the Lorentz force, while that parallel to the field is given by an Alfvén wave pressure force. The work detailed in this thesis models a low-mass star-forming region as a one-dimensional gas slab with a magnetic field lying perpendicular to the layer. Analytical, self-consistent models are formulated to study the equilibrium parallel to the background magnetic field. It is found that both short-wavelength (modelled using the WKB approximation) and large-amplitude, long-wavelength Alfvén waves can provide the necessary support parallel to the magnetic field, generating model cloud thicknesses that are consistent with the observations. The effect of damping by the linear process of ion-neutral friction is considered. It is found that the damping of the waves is not a necessary condition for the support of the cloud although it is an advantage. The possible sources of these waves are discussed. The Alfvén waves are also found to make an important contribution to the heating of a low-mass star-forming region. By modelling the dominant heating and cooling mechanisms in a molecular cloud, it is discovered that a cloud supported against its self-gravity by short-wavelength Alfvén waves will be hotter at its outer edge than in the central regions. These models successfully describe a low-mass star-forming region in equilibrium between its self-gravity, the gas pressure and an Alfvén wave pressure force. The question of the stability of such an equilibrium is considered, specifically that of an isothermal gas slab supported by short-wavelength Alfvén waves. The initial results suggest that the presence of a magnetic field and its associated Alfvén waves have a stabilising effect on the layer, and encourage further consideration of the role of Alfvén waves in low-mass star-forming regions.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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