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Probing the Final Stages of Protoplanetary Disk Evolution with ALMA

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posted on 2015-07-23, 08:55 authored by R. Alexander, A. Hardy, C. Caceres, M. R. Schreiber, L. Cieza, H. Canovas, J. P. Williams, Z. Wahhaj, F. Menard
Context. The evolution of a circumstellar disk from its gas-rich protoplanetary to gas-poor debris stage is not well understood. It is apparent that disk clearing progresses from the inside-out on a short time-scale, and photoevaporation models are frequently invoked to explain this process. However, the photoevaporation rates predicted by recent models differ by up to two orders of magnitude, resulting in uncertain time-scales for the final stages of disk clearing. Aims. Photoevaporation theories predict that the final stages of disk clearing progress in objects which have ceased accretion but still posses considerable material at radii far from the star. Weak-line T Tauri stars (WTTS) with infrared emission in excess of that expected from the stellar photosphere are likely in this configuration. We here aim to provide observational constraints on theories of disk-clearing by measuring the dust masses and CO content of a sample of young (1.8-26.3 Myr) WTTS. Methods. We use ALMA band-6 to obtain continuum and [SUPERSCRIPT 12]CO(2-1) line fluxes for a sample of 24 WTTS stars with known infrared excess. For these WTTS, we infer the dust mass from the continuum observations, and derive disk luminosities and ages to allow comparison with previously detected WTTS. Results. We detect continuum emission in only 4 of 24 WTTS, and no [SUPERSCRIPT 12]CO(2-1) emission in any. For those WTTS without a continuum detection, their ages and derived upper-limits suggest they are debris disks, making them some of the youngest known. Of those with a continuum detection, 3 are possible photoevaporating disks, although the lack of CO detection is suggestive of a severely reduced gas-to-dust ratio. Conclusions. The low fraction of continuum detections implies that once accretion onto the star stops, the clearing of the majority of dust progresses very rapidly. Most WTTS with infrared excess are likely not in transition but are instead young debris disks, with their dust being either primordial having survived the disk clearing, or of second generation origin. In the latter case, the presence of giant planets within these WTTS might be the cause.


AH, MRS, CC, HC and LC acknowledge support from the Millennium Nucleus RC130007 (Chilean Ministry of Economy). MRS, CC and LC also acknowledge support from FONDECYT grants 1141269, 3140592, 1440109 and respectively, and HC acknowledges support from ALMA/CONICYT (grants 31100025 and 31130027). RDA acknowledges support from The Leverhulme Trust though a Philip Leverhulme Prize, and from the Science & Technology Facilities Council (STFC) through Consolidated Grant ST/K001000/1. JPW is supported by the the NSF through grant AST-1208911 and NASA through grant NNX15AC92G. In addition, the authors would like to thank the organisers of MAD workshop in Santiago which made this collaborative science result possible. This paper makes use of the following ALMA data: ADS/JAO.ALMA#2012.1.00350.S, ADS/JAO.ALMA#2011.0.00733.S. ALMA is a partnership of ESO (representing its member states), NSF (USA) and NINS (Japan), together with NRC (Canada) and NSC and ASIAA (Taiwan) and KASI (Republic of Korea), in cooperation with the Republic of Chile. The Joint ALMA Observatory is operated by ESO, AUI/NRAO and NAOJ.



Astronomy & Astrophysics, 2015, 583, A66

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/Organisation/COLLEGE OF SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING/Department of Physics and Astronomy


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