Observational signatures of massive star formation : an investigation of the environments in which they form, and the applicability of the paradigm of low-mass star formation
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This thesis presents both a study of the cluster-scale environments in which massive stars form, investigating in particular how the ionized gas in these regions relates to the molecular star-forming material, as well as detailed studies of two luminous forming stars, AFGL 2591 and IRAS 20126+4104, to determine whether they are forming similarly to their low-mass counterparts. The results of this work include the identification of 35 HII regions (20 newly discovered) via a radio continuum survey of ionized gas towards 31 molecular cluster-forming clumps. The observed ionized gas was found to be preferentially associated with the clumps, which were shown to have a range of evolutionary stages. The massive star formation efficiency was determined for the clumps with associated ionized gas, and a relationship was found between the mass of the clumps and the mass of their embedded massive stars. By modelling the SEDs and images of AFGL 2591 and IRAS 20126+4104, it was found that the geometry of their circumstellar material was generally consistent with an envelope plus disk, similar to that expected for low-mass protostars. However, within the central ~1800 AU, the mid-IR images of IRAS 20126+4104 were better described by only a flattened envelope, suggesting that the radiation from IRAS 20126+4104 may be affecting the regions closest to the star. Observations of the ionized and molecular gas towards AFGL 2591 were carried out, and a photoionization code was developed to interpret these observations. The results showed that the observed 3.6 cm emission is likely to be produced by both a shock-ionized jet and a hypercompact HII region that does not appear to have disrupted the jet or the large-scale circumstellar environment. In addition, the C¹⁸O(1-0) emission observed towards AFGL2591 traces the densest parts of the outflow, with the blue-shifted emission exhibiting many of the properties of the outflows from low-mass protostars.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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