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The Salpeter IMF and its descendants

The stellar initial mass function (IMF) is the key to understanding the matter cycle in the Universe. Edwin Salpeter’s paper of 1955 founded this research field. Evidence today, however, challenges the initial mass function as an invariant probability distribution function.

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Fig. 1: The history of the stellar luminosity and mass functions, and the stellar mass–luminosity relation.


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We acknowledge discussions in the International Space Science Institute (ISSI/ISSI-BJ) in Bern and Beijing made possible through the funding of the team “Chemical abundances in the ISM: the litmus test of stellar IMF variations in galaxies across cosmic time” (Principal Investigators D. Romano and Z.-Y. Zhang).

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Correspondence to Pavel Kroupa or Tereza Jerabkova.

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Kroupa, P., Jerabkova, T. The Salpeter IMF and its descendants. Nat Astron 3, 482–484 (2019).

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