Observations and Models of Infrared Debris Disk Signatures and their Evolution
AdvisorRieke, George H.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractIn my thesis I investigate the occurrence of mid-infrared excess around stars and their evolution. Since the launch of the first infrared satellite, IRAS, we have known that a large fraction of stars exhibit significant levels of infrared emission above their predicted photospheric level. Resolved optical and infrared images have revealed the majority of these excesses to arise from circumstellar disk structures, made up of distributions of planetesimals, rocks, and dust. These structures are descriptively called debris disks. The first part of my thesis analyzes the Spitzer Space Telescope Observations of δ Velorum. The 24 μm Spitzer images revealed a bow shock structure in front of the star. My analysis showed that this is a result of the star’s high speed interaction with the surrounding interstellar medium. We place this observation and model in context of debris disk detections and the origin of λ Boötis stars. The second part of my thesis summarizes our observational results on the open cluster Praesepe. Using 24 μm data, I investigated the fraction of stars with mid-infrared excess, likely to have debris disks. I also assembled all results from previous debris disk studies and followed the evolution of the fraction of stars with debris disks. The majority of debris disks systems are evolved, few hundred million or a Gyr old. Since the dissipation timescale for the emitting dust particles is less than the age of these systems, they have to be constantly replenished through collisional grinding of the larger bodies. The last two chapters of my thesis is a theoretical analysis of the collisional cascade in debris disks, the process that produces the constant level of dust particles detected. I introduce a numerical model that takes into account all types of destructive collisions in the systems and solves the full scattering equation. I show results of comparisons between my and other published models and extensive verification tests of my model. I also analyze the evolution of the particle size distribution as a function of the variables in my model and show that the model itself is quite robust against most variations.
Degree ProgramGraduate College