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Talk by Dr James Wurster, University of St Andrews

Stars are the lifeblood of the Universe. They provide light so that we can study the dynamics of galaxies. They host planets upon which life may live. And when massive stars die, they collapse into black holes. Therefore, understanding stars is incredibly important for understanding all aspects of astronomy. Since a star’s evolution is dictated by its mass at birth, understanding the star formation process, and by extension star forming regions, is incredibly important for all aspects of astronomy.

There are two complementary methods of investigating star formation. The first is to observe many star forming regions, where each region represents a snapshot in time; these snapshots are then combined to study the star formation process. The second method is to use computer simulations to model the formation of a single star (or group of stars) from their birth for a specified time. Because we carefully control and test the parameters in the simulations, they are analogous to laboratory experiments.

In this talk, I will discuss the star forming process, beginning with an overview before moving on to current observations of star forming region. I will then discuss numerical simulations of star formation, which naturally extend to the formation of discs (which is a necessary step for planet formation) and outflows. I will discuss the various processes that are important to star formation and how these processes affect the formation of stars, discs and outflows. This will show the importance of numerical simulations, and show how these simulations have greatly improved our understanding of how stars are born.


I am from Northern Ontario, Canada. I began my career in Computational Astrophysics when I started my PhD (Halifax, Canada). At the time, I was studying black holes and galaxy mergers. Upon completing my PhD, I switched fields to computational star formation. Since then, I have held research fellowships at Monash University (Melbourne, Australia), the University of Exeter (Exeter, England) and the University of St Andrews (St Andrews, Scotland). Throughout these positions, my research expertise has remained in computational astrophysics, star formation, and magnetic fields.

Image credit: Atacama Large Millimeter Array