Indexed on: 31 Jul '15Published on: 31 Jul '15Published in: arXiv - Astrophysics - Astrophysics of Galaxies
We report the novel detection of complex high-column density tails in the probability distribution functions (PDFs) for three high-mass star-forming regions (CepOB3, MonR2, NGC6334), obtained from dust emission observed with Herschel. The low column density range can be fit with a lognormal distribution. A first power-law tail starts above an extinction (Av) of ~6-14. It has a slope of alpha=1.3-2 for the rho~r^-alpha profile for an equivalent density distribution (spherical or cylindrical geometry), and is thus consistent with free-fall gravitational collapse. Above Av~40, 60, and 140, we detect an excess that can be fitted by a flatter power law tail with alpha>2. It correlates with the central regions of the cloud (ridges/hubs) of size ~1 pc and densities above 10^4 cm^-3. This excess may be caused by physical processes that slow down collapse and reduce the flow of mass towards higher densities. Possible are: 1. rotation, which introduces an angular momentum barrier, 2. increasing optical depth and weaker cooling, 3. magnetic fields, 4. geometrical effects, and 5. protostellar feedback. The excess/second power-law tail is closely linked to high-mass star-formation though it does not imply a universal column density threshold for the formation of (high-mass) stars.