Star Formation and the Interstellar Medium

A deep view of star formation in Perseus from Megacam, taken by (then) Harvard Graduate Students Jonathan Foster and Jaime Pineda

Research Description

Nearly all of the light we see from the Universe comes from stars and the interstellar material that forms them. Thus, understanding the processes which turn interstellar matter into stars is key to our understanding of the Universe and its evolution.

Groups within the Department study the interstellar medium and star formation across many scales, from the early Universe to high-redshift galaxies to local galaxies and the Milky Way. A range of diverse theoretical efforts, involving both analytic and numerical work are underway, as well as observational projects across the electromagnetic spectrum.

Many researchers at the CfA are interested in improving the conceptual picture of nearby star formation, and in using it to refine the more empirical view historically employed in models of how the ISM is converted to stars in distant, unresolved, galaxies. On small scales, other projects focus on sharpening our view of the disks that form around stars as interstellar matter coalesces, and on using the information about these circumstellar disks to learn how planets form.