Measuring the Structure and Composition of Circumstellar Debris Disks
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractIn this dissertation, I measure the structure and composition of circumstellar debris disks to probe the underlying planetary systems. In Chapter 1, I provide an introduction to the field of debris disks. I highlight our current observational and theoretical understanding of the field, rather than providing a detailed history. This is intended to give the reader context and motivation for the subsequent chapters. I also describe important developments in debris disk science that are not the focus of this dissertation, but are nevertheless vital for a complete overview. In Chapter 2, I describe my analysis of a large sample of cold (≲130 K) debris disks seen in Spitzer/IRS data. Previous work had suggested a common temperature for these disk components, regardless of spectral type. I find that there is trend with spectral type and argue that the locations of cold disks are not set by snow lines, but more likely by the formation/evolution of planets. This work was published in Ballering et al. (2013). In Chapter 3, I turn my focus to the warm (~190 K) debris components identified in Chapter 2---specifically those exhibiting silicate emission features. I show that these features arise from exozodiacal dust in the habitable zones around these stars. This was published in Ballering et al. (2014). In Chapter 4, I examine the remainder of the warm disks to investigate what mechanism sets their location. I find that for many systems, the locations trace the water snow line in the primordial protoplanetary disk, rather than the current snow line. This favors the interpretation that warm debris components arise from asteroid belts in these systems. This study will be published soon. In Chapter 5, I analyze images of the debris disk around beta Pictoris at five different wavelengths, including in thermal emission and scattered light. I find that matching the disk brightness at all wavelengths constrains the composition of the dust, with a mixture of astronomical silicates and organic refractory material fitting the data well. This was published in Ballering et al. (2016). In Chapter 6, I conclude with a summary of this dissertation and prospects for future progress in these areas.
Degree ProgramGraduate College