AAS 197, January 2001
Session 91. Disks around YSOs
Oral, Wednesday, January 10, 2001, 10:30am-12:00noon, Pacific One

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[91.04] A Census of Protoplanetary Disks and Candidate Protostars in the Trapezium Cluster

C.J. Lada (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics), A.A. Muench (Harvard-Smithsonian CfA and University of Florida), K.E. Haisch, E.A. Lada (Department of Astronomy University of Florida), J.F. Alves (European Southern Observatory), E.V. Tollestrup (Department of Astronomy Boston University), S.P. Willner (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics)

We report the results of a sensitive near-infrared JHKL imaging survey of the Trapezium cluster in Orion. We use the JHKL colors to obtain a census of infrared excess stars in the cluster. Of (391) stars brighter than 12th magnitude in the K and L bands, 80% ± 7% are found to exhibit detectable infrared excess on the J-H, K-L color-color diagram. Examination of a subsample of 285 of these stars with published spectral types yields a slightly higher infrared excess fraction of 85%. We interpret these results to indicate that the fraction of stars in the cluster with circumstellar disks is between 80-85%. Moreover, we find that the probability of finding an infrared excess around a star is independent of stellar mass over essentially the entire range of the stellar mass function down to the hydrogen burning limit. Consequently, the vast majority of stars in the Trapezium cluster appear to have been born with circumstellar disks and the potential to subsequently form planetary systems, despite formation within the environment of a rich and dense stellar cluster. We also identify a population of 78 stars in our sample characterized by K-L colors suggestive of deeply embedded objects. The spatial distribution of these objects differs from that of the rest of the cluster members and is similar to that of the dense molecular cloud ridge behind the cluster. If even a modest fraction of these objects are protostars, then star formation could be continuing in the molecular ridge at a rate comparable to that which produced the foreground Trapezium cluster.

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