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Title: A critical assessment of ages derived using pre-main-sequence isochrones in colour-magnitude diagrams
Author: Bell, Cameron Pearce MacDonald
Awarding Body: University of Exeter
Current Institution: University of Exeter
Date of Award: 2012
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In this thesis a critical assessment of the ages derived using theoretical pre-main-sequence (pre-MS) stellar evolutionary models is presented by comparing the predictions to the low-mass pre-MS population of 14 young star-forming regions (SFRs) in colour-magnitude diagrams (CMDs). Deriving pre-MS ages requires precise distances and estimates of the reddening. Therefore, the main-sequence (MS) members of the SFRs have been used to derive a self-consistent set of statistically robust ages, distances and reddenings with associated uncertainties using a maximum-likelihood fitting statistic and MS evolutionary models. A photometric method (known as the Q-method) for de-reddening individual stars in regions where the extinction is spatially variable has been updated and is presented. The effects of both the model dependency and the SFR composition on these derived parameters are also discussed. The problem of calibrating photometric observations of red pre-MS stars is examined and it is shown that using observations of MS stars to transform the data into a standard photometric system can introduce significant errors in the position of the pre-MS locus in CMD space. Hence, it is crucial that precise photometric studies (especially of pre- MS objects) be carried out in the natural photometric system of the observations. This therefore requires a robust model of the system responses for the instrument used, and thus the calculated responses for the Wide-Field Camera on the Isaac Newton Telescope are presented. These system responses have been tested using standard star observations and have been shown to be a good representation of the photometric system. A benchmark test for the pre-MS evolutionary models is performed by comparing them to a set of well-calibrated CMDs of the Pleiades in the wavelength regime 0.4−2.5 μm. The masses predicted by these models are also tested against dynamical masses using a sample of MS binaries by calculating the system magnitude in a given photometric band- pass. This analysis shows that for Teff ≤ 4000 K the models systematically overestimate the flux by a factor of 2 at 0.5 μm, though this decreases with wavelength, becoming negligible at 2.2 μm. Thus before the pre-MS models are used to derive ages, a recalibration of the models is performed by incorporating an empirical colour-Teff relation and bolometric corrections based on the Ks-band luminosity of Pleiades members, with theoretical corrections for the dependence on the surface gravity (log g). The recalibrated pre-MS model isochrones are used to derive ages from the pre-MS populations of the SFRs. These ages are then compared with the MS derivations, thus providing a powerful diagnostic tool with which to discriminate between the different pre- MS age scales that arise from a much stronger model dependency in the pre-MS regime. The revised ages assigned to each of the 14 SFRs are up to a factor two older than previous derivations, a result with wide-ranging implications, including that circumstellar discs survive longer and that the average Class II lifetime is greater than currently believed.
Supervisor: Tim, Naylor Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: stars: evolution ; stars: formation ; stars: pre-main-sequence ; techniques: photometric ; open clusters and associations: general ; Hertzsprung-Russell and colour-magnitude diagrams