2MASS Observations of Molecular Clouds
A major goal of star formation studies is to characterize the conditions and “mode” under which most stars form in our Galaxy (see, e.g. Lada, Strom, & Myers 1993). That is, among the continuum of stellar systems found in molecular clouds, how are most stars created? Are they formed primarily in rare, but densely populated clusters, or among smaller clusters and isolated star forming regions? Do most stars form uniformly in time throughout the lifetime of a molecular cloud, or in sporadic bursts? What causes one portion of a molecular cloud do form rich clusters, but not other regions? How (and if at all) do the properties of the stars (e.g. lifetime of protoplanetary disks, the stellar initial mass function, etc…) vary among the different stellar systems? While answering these questions requires substantial photometric and spectroscopic observations, the first crucial step requires determining the size and spatial distribution of the stellar population within molecular clouds.
KeywordsStar Formation Molecular Cloud Stellar Population Stellar Mass Stellar System
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