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Star and Planet Formation

Understanding how stars and planets form is one of the most exciting challenges in astronomy, and one in which Cardiff is heavily involved: designing and building the powerful far-infrared and submillimetre telescopes that are needed to detect matter that is destined to form the next generation of stars and planets; using these telescopes to map the density, temperature, chemical composition, velocity and magnetic field in star formation regions, by observing and analysing the radiation from the ions, atoms, molecules and dust grains involved; and performing supercomputer simulations of gas dynamics and radiation transport, so that we can interpret the observations and piece together a coherent picture of the whole process. Our ultimate aim is to predict the collective properties of stars, in particular: the distribution of stellar masses (or Initial Mass Function), the statistics of binary systems and higher multiples, the structure of star clusters, the interaction of newly-formed stars with their surroundings, the external appearance of star formation regions — and how, if at all, these quantities depend on environment, metallicity and epoch.