NIRCam Principal Investigator, University of Arizona
Interview Date: Spring 2002
The James Webb Space Telescope will tell us a lot about star formation. And one of the key projects with NIRCam is to study the initial stellar mass function — the number of stars born with different masses. We'd like to do this in a whole variety of environments where we can probe what makes the initial mass function have the form that it does. How does the composition of the clouds, its metallicity, affect the sizes of the stars that are formed? Is the distribution of stellar masses the same in old globular clusters as in nearby star-forming clouds? So that's one whole key set of questions in star formation.
Another area where the James Webb Space Telescope will make a contribution to star formation is in understanding how a cloud collapses to begin with; the very first step in star formation, and that will require a combination of study using NIRCam and the mid-infrared instrument, MIRI.