Chapter 04

OB Associations

Nicholas Wright, Simon Goodwin, Rob Jeffries, Marina Kounkel, Eleonora Zari

OB associations are low-density groups of young stars that are dispersing from their birth environment into the Galactic field. They are important for understanding the star formation process, early stellar evolution, the properties and distribution of young stars and the processes by which young stellar groups disperse. Recent observations, particularly from Gaia, have shown that associations are highly complex, with a high degree of spatial, kinematic and temporal substructure. The kinematics of associations have shown them to be globally unbound and expanding, with the majority of recent studies revealing evidence for clear expansion patterns in the association subgroups, suggesting the subgroups were more compact in the past. This expansion is often non-isotropic, arguing against a simple explosive expansion, as predicted by some models of residual gas expulsion. The star formation histories of associations are often complex, exhibit moderate age spreads and temporal substructure, but so far have failed to reveal simple patterns of star formation propagation (e.g., triggering). These results have challenged the historical paradigm of the origin of associations as the expanded remnants of dense star clusters and suggests instead that they originate as highly substructured systems without a linear star formation history, but with multiple clumps of stars that have since expanded and begun to overlap, producing the complex systems we observe today. This has wide-ranging consequences for the early formation environments of most stars and planetary systems, including our own Solar System.

Supplementary Data

A high-resolution and full colour version of Figure 6 is provided here. A low-resolution version is shown here:

The data used to make this figure, including a list of OB associations from Wright 2020, OB stars from Zari et al. 2021, and young stellar objects from Kuhn et al. 2021, can be download from here.

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