Stars are of fundamental importance to astronomy, and how they form and shape their environments influence everything from exoplanet studies to cosmology. Stars form in heavily obscured molecular clouds, and understanding the initial conditions of star formation persists as one of the leading challenges of contemporary astrophysics. A major challenge is the wide range of physical scales involved: from the large-scale galactic environment, to molecular clouds, to the high-density filaments and cores most directly associated with the birth of stars, and all the way down to the physics of dust, atoms and molecules. I will discuss ways to overcome these challenges, focusing on the birth of molecular clouds from the atomic interstellar medium, the role of high-density substructure in the formation of stars, and the properties of molecular clouds in dwarf galaxies. I will also explore some cosmological implications of stardust, proposing theoretical models for dust in high-redshift galaxies and in the intergalactic medium.
Host: Ian Crossfield