Abstract

Understanding the processes that determine the stellar initial mass function (IMF) is a critical unsolved problem, with profound implications for many areas of astrophysics1. In molecular clouds, stars are formed in cores—gas condensations sufficiently dense that gravitational collapse converts a large fraction of their mass into a star or small clutch of stars. In nearby star-formation regions, the core mass function (CMF) is strikingly similar to the IMF, suggesting that the shape of the IMF may simply be inherited from the CMF2,3,4,5. Here, we present 1.3 mm observations, obtained with the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array telescope, of the active star-formation region W43-MM1, which may be more representative of the Galactic-arm regions where most stars form6,7. The unprecedented resolution of these observations reveals a statistically robust CMF at high masses, with a slope that is markedly shallower than the IMF. This seriously challenges our understanding of the origin of the IMF.

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Acknowledgements

This paper makes use of the following ALMA data: #2013.1.01365.S. ALMA is a partnership of ESO (representing its member states), NSF (USA) and NINS (Japan), together with NRC (Canada), MOST and ASIAA (Taiwan), and KASI (Republic of Korea), in cooperation with the Republic of Chile. The Joint ALMA Observatory is operated by ESO, AUI/NRAO and NAOJ. This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme StarFormMapper under grant agreement number 687528. This work was supported by the Programme National de Physique Stellaire and Physique et Chimie du Milieu Interstellaire of CNRS/INSU (with INC/INP/IN2P3), co-funded by CEA and CNES. A.P.W. gratefully acknowledges the support of a consolidated grant (ST/K00926/1) from the UK Science and Technology Funding Council. T.C. acknowledges support from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft via the SPP (priority programme) 1573 ‘Physics of the ISM’. A.J.M. has received funding from the European Research Council under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (MagneticYSOs, grant agreement number 679937).

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Institut de Planétologie et d’Astrophysique de Grenoble, Université Grenoble Alpes, CNRS, Grenoble, France

    • F. Motte
    •  & T. Nony
  2. AIM Paris-Saclay/Département d’Astrophysique, CEA, CNRS, Université Paris Diderot, CEA-Saclay, Gif-sur-Yvette, France

    • F. Motte
    • , A. Men’shchikov
    • , A. J. Maury
    • , V. Könyves
    • , P. Didelon
    •  & M. Gaudel
  3. Department of Astronomy, Universidad de Chile, Santiago, Chile

    • F. Louvet
  4. School of Physics and Astronomy, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK

    • K. A. Marsh
    • , A. P. Whitworth
    •  & A. Duarte-Cabral
  5. Laboratoire d’Astrophysique de Bordeaux, OASU, Université Bordeaux, CNRS, Pessac, France

    • S. Bontemps
    •  & E. Chapillon
  6. Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute, Daejeon, Republic of Korea

    • Q. Nguyễn Lương
  7. NAOJ Chile Observatory, National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, Tokyo, Japan

    • Q. Nguyễn Lương
  8. Max-Planck-Institut für Radioastronomie, Bonn, Germany

    • T. Csengeri
  9. LERMA, Observatoire de Paris, PSL Research University, CNRS, Sorbonne Universités, UPMC Université, Paris, France

    • A. Gusdorf
  10. Institut de Radioastronomie Millimétrique, Saint Martin d’Hères, France

    • E. Chapillon
  11. Physikalisches Institut, University of Cologne, Cologne, Germany

    • P. Schilke

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Contributions

F.M. and F.L. led the project. E.C., T.N., F.M. and A.J.M. reduced the ALMA data. F.L. ran getsources and the CASA simulator. T.C. ran MRE-GaussClumps. K.A.M. ran PPMAP. S.B. and A.M. performed the Monte Carlo simulations. F.M., T.N. and F.L. analysed the CMF results. F.M. and A.P.W. wrote the manuscript. F.M., S.B., F.L., Q.N.L., A.J.M. and P.S. contributed to the ALMA proposal. All authors discussed the results and implications and commented on the manuscript.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to F. Motte or T. Nony or F. Louvet.

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https://doi.org/10.1038/s41550-018-0452-x