Internal Structure of Stellar Clusters: Geometry of Star Formation

Alfaro, Emilio J.; Sánchez, Néstor
Computational Star Formation, Proceedings of the International Astronomical Union, IAU Symposium, Volume 270, p. 81-88


The study of the internal structure of star clusters provides important clues concerning their formation mechanism and dynamical evolution. There are both observational and numerical evidences indicating that open clusters evolve from an initial clumpy structure, presumably a direct consequence of the formation in a fractal medium, toward a centrally condensed state. This simple picture has, however, several drawbacks. There can be very young clusters exhibiting radial patterns maybe reflecting the early effect of gravity on primordial gas. There can be also very evolved clusters showing fractal patterns that either have survived through time or have been generated subsequently by some (unknown) mechanism. Additionally, the fractal structure of some open clusters is much clumpier than the average structure of the interstellar medium in the Milky Way, although in principle a very similar structure should be expected. Here we summarize and discuss observational and numerical results concerning this subject.