What distinguishes Lee Hartmann in the field of star formation is his scope. His research begins with how vast cold clouds of gas and dust fragment then collapse, forming stars and their surrounding disks – and proceeds through how planets form within these disks. Using simple models that link observation and theory, Hartmann looks at how variations in initial conditions and the physical processes that dominate a star’s evolution contribute to the variety of systems we observe – from binaries to planetary systems like our own. This reach equipped Hartmann to author the first comprehensive book on star formation, now in its second edition and still considered a seminal text in the field.
Hartmann has used observational evidence of the age of stars in star-forming regions to suggest that star formation is a faster process than generally believed – by a factor of ~10. He asserts that magnetic fields do not play as strong a role in slowing the process as most theoreticians assume. His models show that the large-scale effects of gravity are important, and are essential to understanding the formation of star clusters. The complexity of infall implied in these models may help produce protostars’ outbursting circumstellar disks, which may empty out an entire solar nebula’s worth of mass onto the star in little over a century.
Formation of stars and star clusters; molecular cloud structure and dynamics; protostellar accretion; evolution of protoplanetary disks and planet formation; mass function of stars
BS, Case Western Reserve; PhD, University of Wisconsin. Astrophysicist, Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory; past VP of American Astronomical Society; Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
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