AAS 205th Meeting, 9-13 January 2005
Session 156 T Tauri Stars and Their Disks
Oral, Thursday, January 13, 2005, 10:00-11:30am, California

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[156.05] High Angular Resolution Studies of Young Circumstellar Disks

J.A. Eisner (Caltech)

Circumstellar disks are an integral part of the processes of star and planet formation: young stars are surrounded by massive, rotating disks of dust and gas, which supply a reservoir of material that may be incorporated into planets, accreted onto the central star, or ejected in powerful winds. In my dissertation, I used near-IR interferometry, in conjunction with near-IR adaptive optics imaging, optical photometry, and high resolution spectroscopy, to constrain the structure of inner regions of dusty disks around young stars with masses from 1-10 M\odot. These interferometric observations, obtained at the Palomar Testbed and Keck Interferometers, spatially resolved the disk emission and demonstrated that inner disks are typically truncated 0.1-1 AU away from their central stars. In addition, my observations showed that inner disks around lower-mass stars are generally inclined, with puffed-up inner disk edges. In contrast, the disks around more massive stars, while still truncated, may not puff-up, indicating that disk structure depends on stellar properties. The structure of the inner disk has profound implications for disk accretion and planet formation, and I have used my results to test theories of magnetospheric accretion and planetary migration. Finally, I put these detailed studies of disk structure into a broader context by studying the frequency and evolutionary timescales of massive circumstellar disks. Using the Owens Valley Millimeter Array, I mapped the millimeter continuum emission toward >300 low-mass stars in the NGC 2024 and Orion Nebula clusters. These observations demonstrated that the average disk mass in each cluster is comparable to the "minimum-mass protosolar nebula"; since most stars are formed in rich clusters, these results indicate that a typical circumstellar disk may be massive enough to form a solar system like our own. This work was supported by a Michelson Graduate Research Fellowship.

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The author(s) of this abstract have provided an email address for comments about the abstract: jae@astro.caltech.edu

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