Motivated by recent observational searches of sub-structure in starless molecular cloud cores, we investigate the evolution of density perturbations on scales smaller than the Jeans length embedded in contracting isothermal clouds, adopting the same formalism developed for the expanding Universe and the solar wind. We find that initially small amplitude, Jeans-stable perturbations (propagating as sound waves in the absence of a magnetic field) are amplified adiabatically during the contraction, approximately conserving the wave action density, until they either become non-linear and steepen into shocks at a time tnl, or become gravitationally unstable when the Jeans length decreases below the scale of the perturbations at a time tgr. We evaluate analytically the time tnl at which the perturbations enter the non-linear stage using a Burgers' equation approach, and we verify numerically that this time marks the beginning of the phase of rapid dissipation of the kinetic energy of the perturbations. We then show that for typical values of the rms Mach number in molecular cloud cores, tnl is smaller than tgr, and therefore density perturbations likely dissipate before becoming gravitational unstable. Solenoidal modes grow at a faster rate than compressible modes, and may eventually promote fragmentation through the formation of vortical structures.
Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
- Pub Date:
- February 2018
- ISM: clouds;
- ISM: kinematics and dynamics;
- Astrophysics - Solar and Stellar Astrophysics
- 8 pages, 4 figures