Questions 14-20 are based on the following passage.
Star formation begins with the gravitational collapse of matter in an interstellar gas cloud. A protostar (forming star) affects gas in the surrounding portions of the cloud in 2 ways:
The protostar's ,gravitational field attracts gas, causing the gas to accrete (accumulate onto the protostar).
Radiation pressure (RP) associated with the protostar's emissions causes gas to be pushed away from the protostar, inhibiting accretion. Star formation ends when the effect of RP overcorhes that of gravity. At that point, the protostar, can no, longer gain mass by accretion and is considered a fully formed star.
Three scientists debate whether the maximum mass that a protostar can reach by accretion is great enough to account for the most massive stars observed.
The effect of RP is uniform in all directions around a protostar. As a result, the maxi.mum mass that a protostar. can reach by accretion is 20 $$M_s$$ (1 $$M_s$$ = mass of the Sun). Any further increase in mass requires at least 1 stellar merger (the combinaifon of 2 or more fully formed stars into 1). Because stars tend to form in clusters, stellar mergers are likely.
Scientist 1 is correct that stellar mergers are likely. However, because a protostar rotates about its axis, a disk of gas forms in the plane of the protostar's equator. This reduces the effect of RP in that plane, allowing gas from the disk to readily accrete. As a result, the maximum mass that a protostar can reach by accretion is 40 $$M_s$$. Any further increase in mass requires at least 1 stellar merger.
Stellar mergers are yery unlikely given the vast distances between stars, even within clusters. Scientist 2 is correct about the formation and the effect of the disk. In addition, a protostar produces bubble-like regions of radiation that increase the effect of RP near the profostar's poles, promoting the flow of gas into the disk. As a result, accretion continues until the surrounding portions of the cloud are nearly depleted of gas. Therefore, the maximum mass that a protostar can reach by accretion is limited orily by the amount of available gas.