Evolution and Variability of Circumstellar Material around Young Stellar Objects
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractUsing multi-wavelength and multi-epoch observations we examine the evolution of circumstellar disks around pre-main sequence stars from massive, optically thick flared disks to wispy debris disks. We examine a young cluster of nearby stars, identifying likely members and studying dust properties using 3-24μm photometry and accretion rates using optical spectroscopy. We find that 79% of the stars have disks and that almost all of the stars with disks are actively accreting. The stars that show evidence for evolution in their dust properties also exhibit a decrease in the accretion activity suggesting that the evolution of the dust and gas is closely connected. Focusing on a sub-sample of transition disks we study the source of recently discovered infrared variability and whether it can be used to further our understanding of disk structure. We are particularly interested in sources that show a ’seesaw’ behavior in their SED in which the short wavelength infrared flux increases while the long wavelength flux decreases causing the SED to pivot about one wavelength. We develop simple geometric models of disks with nonaxisymmetric structure and find that the precession of this structure is not able to reproduce the strength or the wavelength dependence of observed infrared variability while a model with an inner warp whose scale height rapidly varies is much more successful. We follow this up with detailed observations covering a wide range of wavelengths from optical to mid-infrared of six transition disks in order to better understand the physical source of the variability. We find that the variability is consistent with a variable scale height of the inner disk, finding direct evidence for this effect in two transition disks. Contemporaneous measures of the infrared flux and the accretion rate find in some cases a correlation between these two properties, although in none of our stars is it likely that the accretion rate variability is the source of the infrared variability. The most likely cause is either a companion embedded in the disk or a dynamic interface between the stellar magnetic field and the disk.
Degree ProgramGraduate College