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Title: The circumstellar environments of dusty main sequence stars
Author: Gebrim, Antonio Salvador Hales
ISNI:       0000 0001 3524 410X
Awarding Body: UCL (University College London)
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2007
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Our current understanding of the formation of planetary systems is strongly linked to astronomical observations of gas and dust around young stars. This thesis is dedicated to studying the physical conditions acting in the circumstellar environments of pre-main sequence and early main sequence dusty stars. These early stellar ages correspond to the timescales over which planets are thought to be formed. The first part of this work is dedicated to a search for dusty early A-type stars in the northern galactic plane. Data from the IPHAS Ha survey is first used to select a sample of galactic A-type stars. This sample is then correlated with data from the Spitzer Space Telescope in order to search for 8 microns and 24 microns excesses associated with warm dust orbiting the stars. The improved photometric sensitivities of these new galactic surveys allow the list of known galactic 'Vega-like' sources to be extended to unexplored optical magnitude ranges (13.5 < r < 18.5 mags). Only 1.1% of a sample of 3062 A-type stars with available optical to mid-infrared spectral energy distributions showed detectable excesses at 8 microns. Searching over 1860 stars observed at 24 microns yielded similar statistical results (1.2%). Only 10 stars have both 8 and 24 micron excesses. These results support the idea that warm dust located relatively close to the stars is rare in main sequence systems. Follow-up observations of this new sample of dust-excess stars will provide better insights into the properties of the systems. Resolved images are crucial for understanding the dynamics and evolution of proto-planetary disks. Observing the detailed disk structure requires high-contrast, high-spatial resolution imaging very close to the bright central star. As a consequence, only a handful of these systems have yet been resolved. The second part of this work shows how near-infrared Polarimetric Imaging on the 3.8 meter United Kingdom Infrared Telescope can be used to obtain reflected-light images of dust-disks around dust excess stars. This technique allows one to automatically suppress the unpolarised light from the central star, increasing the dynamic range for detecting polarised light scattered by the dust present in circumstellar discs. The detections of extended disks around the classical T Tauri star TW Hya and the Herbig Ac star HD 169142 are reported, as well as the strong but spatially unresolved polarization signals measured toward two other Herbig Ae stars. Monte Carlo scattering simulations are used to fit the J-, H- and K-band polarization images of the disk around TW Hya, providing new constraints on the geometry of TW Hya's disk. The third part of this thesis is dedicated to studying the gas content and dynamics around dust-excess stars. The evolution of circumstellar gas is thought to be strongly linked to the formation of gaseous giant planets similar to Jupiter, Saturn and most currently known extra-solar planets. However, the timescales over which circumstellar gas discs dissipate remains poorly constrained, mainly due to the observational difficulties associated with detecting small amounts of circumstellar gas. An analysis of high-resolution (R 50 000) optical spectroscopic data of a sample of 'Vega-like' candidates from the catalogue of Mannings & Barlow (1998) is presented. Analysis of the stellar spectra allows one to search for narrow absorption features due to circumstellar gas and possible Falling Evaporating Bodies, similar to the ones seen in the (3 Pictoris system. None of the stars from this sample show emission line activity in either Ha, Ca II or Na I, indicating that accretion of material onto the stars has ceased and suggesting they are true main sequence Vega-like stars. Four stars were found to exhibit narrow absorption features near the cores of the photospheric Ca II and Na I D lines, with HD 110058 being the strongest candidate to host a (3 Pictoris-like gas disk. If confirmed, HD 110058 would represent the Vega-like star with the lowest Lir/L* value (3.7 x 10"4) around which a CS gas disk has been detected.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available