Clustered star formation and the origin of stellar masses.

Science 295(5552):68 (2002) PMID 11778037

Star clusters are ubiquitous in galaxies of all types and at all stages of their evolution. We also observe them to be forming in a wide variety of environments, ranging from nearby giant molecular clouds to the supergiant molecular clouds found in starburst and merging galaxies. The typical star in our galaxy and probably in others formed as a member of a star cluster, so star formation is an intrinsically clustered and not an isolated phenomenon. The greatest challenge regarding clustered star formation is to understand why stars have a mass spectrum that appears to be universal. This review examines the observations and models that have been proposed to explain these fundamental issues in stellar formation.