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Mordecai-Mark Mac Low

Mordecai-Mark Mac Low

Assistant Curator and Curator-in-Charge

Ph.D., University of Colorado at Boulder, 1989 "Interactions of Massive Stars With the Interstellar Medium: Bow Shocks and Superbubbles"


Dr. Mac Low's work focuses on understanding the causes and results of the formation of stars from interstellar gas. This is a fundamental problem in modern astrophysics, as stars produce all the elements heavier than helium, determine the possibilities for life to occur, and shape the fates of galaxies. Working with fellow astronomers at several universities and observatories, Dr. Mac Low has developed numerical models at several different scales to attack this problem.

At the smallest scales of less than one light year, he has used the ZEUS astrophysical magnetohydrodynamics simulation program to examine the behavior of self-gravitating, supersonic, magnetized turbulence to understand the formation of the dense cloud cores in which protostars are observed. At scales of thousands of light years, he is studying the formation of the molecular clouds from which the dense cores collapse from the galactic disk under the influence of multiple supernova explosions. Finally, at the galactic scale of tens of thousands of light years, his research is focusing on how star formation and the resulting supernovae from one dwarf galaxy might inhibit surrounding galaxy formation, bringing current models of galaxy formation into accord with observations.

Dr. Mac Low also is collaborating on projects in three other areas. The first studies the structure of the shells produced by nova explosions. This work makes the novel suggestion that these shells are largely shaped by gasdynamical instabilities due to the repeated explosions of the novae. A second project studies the behavior of magnetized gas in the very early universe, shortly after the formation of electrons and protons. The third project models the impact of asteroids on Venus as part of an effort to determine the age of the surface of Venus, which is currently not known to better than a factor of three.


Korycansky, D. G., K. J. Zahnle, and M.-M. Mac Low. "High Resolution Calculations of Asteroid Impacts Into the Venusian Atmosphere." Icarus 146 (2001): 397 / Erratum 147 (2001): 592.

Heitsch, F., M.-M. Mac Low, and R. S. Klessen. "Gravitational Collapse in Turbulent Molecular Clouds. II. Magnetohydrodynamical Turbulence." Astrophysics Journal 547 (2001): 280.

Klessen, R. S., F. Heitsch, and M.-M. Mac Low. "Gravitational Collapse in Turbulent Molecular Clouds. I. Gasdynamical Turbulence." Astrophysics Journal 535 (2000): 887.

Smith, M. D., M.-M. Mac Low, and J. M. Zuev. "The Shock Waves in Decaying Supersonic Turbulence." Astronomy & Astrophysics 356 (2000): 287.

Mac Low, M.-M. "The Energy Dissipation Rate of Supersonic Magnetohydrodynamic Turbulence in Molecular Clouds." Astrophysics Journal 524 (1999): 169.

Mac Low, M.-M., and A. Ferrara. "Starburst-Driven Mass Loss From Dwarf Galaxies: Efficiency and Metal Ejection." Astrophysics Journal 513 (1999): 142.

Mac Low, M.-M., and V. Ossenkopf. "Characterizing the Structure of Interstellar Turbulence." Astronomy & Astrophysics 353 (1999): 339.

  • International Astronomical Union
  • American Astronomical Society
  • American Physical Society
  • Miguel Avillez, Postdoctoral Fellow
  • Paola D'Alessio, Postdoctoral Fellow
  • Javier Ballesteros-Paredes, Postdoctoral Fellow
  • Akimi Fujita, Ph.D. Candidate, Columbia University
  • YueXing Li, Ph.D. Candidate, Columbia University

Also at the Museum Beyond Planet Earth


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