SCYON Abstract

Received on January 4 2001

On the variation of the Initial Mass Function

AuthorsPavel Kroupa
AffiliationUniversity of Kiel
Accepted byMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society


In this contribution an average or Galactic-field IMF is defined, stressing that there is evidence for a change in the power-law index at only two masses: near 0.5 MO and 0.08 MO. Using this supposed universal IMF, the uncertainty inherent to any observational estimate of the IMF is investigated, by studying the scatter introduced by Poisson noise and the dynamical evolution of star clusters. It is found that this apparent scatter reproduces quite well the observed scatter in power-law index determinations, thus defining the fundamental limit within which any true variation becomes undetectable. The absence of evidence for a variable IMF means that any true variation of the IMF in well studied populations must be smaller than this scatter.

Determinations of the power-law indices "alpha" are subject to systematic errors arising mostly from unresolved binaries. The systematic bias is quantified here, with the result that the single-star IMFs for young star-clusters are systematically steeper by "Delta" "alpha" ~ 0.5 between 0.1 and 1 MO than the Galactic-field IMF, which is populated by, on average, about 5 Gyr old stars. The MFs in globular clusters appear to be, on average, systematically flatter than the Galactic-field IMF (Piotto & Zoccali 1999; Paresce & De Marchi 2000), and the recent detection of ancient white-dwarf candidates in the Galactic halo and absence of associated low-mass stars (Méndez & Minniti 2000; Ibata et al. 2000) suggests a radically different IMF for this ancient population. Star-formation in higher-metallicity environments thus appears to produce relatively more low-mass stars. While still tentative, this is an interesting trend, being consistent with a systematic variation of the IMF as expected from theoretical arguments.