Far-infrared & Sub-millimeter Studies of Circumstellar Disks
Bulger, Joanna Mary
Date: 15 November 2013
University of Exeter
PhD in Physics
Circumstellar disks are critical structures in the star and planet formation processes, as they provide a conduit to channel material onto the central object and supply a reservoir of dust and gas to form planets. This thesis focuses on the far-infrared, and sub-millimeter observations of circumstellar disks at two key evolutionary ...
Circumstellar disks are critical structures in the star and planet formation processes, as they provide a conduit to channel material onto the central object and supply a reservoir of dust and gas to form planets. This thesis focuses on the far-infrared, and sub-millimeter observations of circumstellar disks at two key evolutionary phases; pri- mordial proto-planetary disks, and evolved debris disks – remnants of a system that has undergone a degree of planet formation. Four individual studies of circumstellar disks are presented in this thesis. The results of a 97% complete census of far-infrared emission measured with the Herschel Space Observatory, targeting stars of spectral types M4 and later, in the Taurus molec- ular cloud are presented. This census is the first large-scale survey sensitive to emission across the stellar and sub-stellar boundary. Results from an initial test grid of model spectral energy distributions, generated with the radiative transfer code MCFOST, show that 73% of the observed Class II population are constrained by canonical disks that are viewed from face-on to edge-on inclinations. Sub-millimeter observations with the Caltech Sub-millimeter Observatory are presented for an association of young T-Tauri stars in the Aquila star-forming region. The results of disk frequency and disk mass of this complete census are investigated in this extremely low stellar density environment. A sub-millimeter investigation for two populations of candidate debris disk; warm and cold excess disks is presented. None of the candidate disks were detected in the sub-millimeter despite upper-limits below that expected, based on blackbody model fits to excesses at shorter wavelengths. Several scenarios are investigated in order to identify the null detection rate, such as stellar multiplicity and background-source contamination. Finally, a partially resolved sub-millimeter map of the debris disk around the HR 8799 multiple planetary system is presented. The planet formation history of the system is investigated through the witnessed morphology of the emission.
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