C. Briceno, Th. Preibisch, W. Sherry, E. Mamajek, R. Mathieu, F. Walter, H. Zinnecker

The Low-mass Populations in OB Associations

Review chapter in the book Protostars & Planets V, eds. B. Reipurth, D. Jewitt, & K. Keil, University of Arizona Press, Tucson, p. 345--360 (2007)

Low-mass stars (0.1 <~ M <~ 1 M_sun) in OB associations are key to addressing some of the most fundamental problems in star formation. The low-mass stellar populations of OB associations provide a snapshot of the fossil star-formation record of giant molecular cloud complexes. Large scale surveys have identified hundreds of members of nearby OB associations, and revealed that low-mass stars exist wherever high-mass stars have recently formed. The spatial distribution of low-mass members of OB associations demonstrate the existence of significant substructure ("subgroups"). This "discretized" sequence of stellar groups is consistent with an origin in short-lived parent molecular clouds within a Giant Molecular Cloud Complex. The low-mass population in each subgroup within an OB association exhibits little evidence for significant age spreads on time scales of ~10 Myr or greater, in agreement with a scenario of rapid star formation and cloud dissipation. The Initial Mass Function (IMF) of the stellar populations in OB associations in the mass range 0.1 <~ M <~ 1 M_sun is largely consistent with the field IMF, and most low-mass pre-main sequence stars in the solar vicinity are in OB associations. These findings agree with early suggestions that the majority of stars in the Galaxy were born in OB associations. The most recent work further suggests that a significant fraction of the stellar population may have their origin in the more spread out regions of OB associations, instead of all being born in dense clusters. Ground-based and space-based (Spitzer Space Telescope) infrared studies have provided robust evidence that primordial accretion disks around low-mass stars dissipate on timescales of a few Myr. However, on close inspection there appears to be great variance in the disk dissipation timescales for stars of a given mass in OB associations. While some stars appear to lack disks at ~1 Myr, a few appear to retain accretion disks up to ages of ~10-20 Myr.

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