Far-infrared and sub-millimetre surveys of circumstellar discs.
Phillips, Neil Matthew
Stars of all ages and evolutionary stages are seen to be surrounded by discs of matieral. during the formation of a stellar system the stars are orbited by a massive protoplanetary disc composed of interstellar gas and dust, in which planet formation occurs. Betewwen 1 and 10 Myr the protoplanetary disc disperses, leaving behind the newly formed system of planets and smaller bodies. The remaining material which has not formed into planets is referred to as a debris disc. Even though the interstellar dust grains from the protoplanetary disc have long been removed from the system, debris discs can contain large quantities of dust due to collisions between larger bodies and cometary activity. such dust can be detected by its thermal emission. This thesis focuses on observational studies at far-infrared and sub-millimetre wavelengths of debris discs and the late stages of protoplanetary disc evolution. An overview of surveys for debris discs performed to date is presented, highlighting the limitations and statistical biases. the motivation, design and sample selection for two large surveys for debris discs around nearby stars, with the Hershel space observatory and the SCUBA-2 sub-millimetre camera on the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope, are described. The combination of a uniform obstevational strategy, longer wavelengths than previous surveys, and a large, clearly chosen sample - unbiased by stellar properties - will allow robust statistical conclusions of how the incidence and properties of debris discs depend on system parameters such as stellar mass, age, metallicity, binarity and the presence of planets. As a precursor to the Hershel and SCUBA-2 surveys, a volume-limited ample of 130 A type star systems was surveyed using observations at 24 and 70 μm, which were required to determine the presence of emission from dust, were predicted by fitting model flux distributions to optical and near-infrared photometry. Debris discs were detected around 46 systems, 12 of which including the system with the largest dust mass - are new discoveries. This survey adds to the results of previous studies which show that debris disc incidence is not correleated with host star metallicity despite the wll known giant planet - metallicity correlation, This is in accordance with what is predicted from the core accretion theory of planet formation. The most signigicant result from this survey is that, contrary to results reported in a previous work, debris discs are oberall less common around binary stars. Further investigation shows that systems with separations of ~3-150 AU are especially deficient of debris, while closer binaries and the primaries of wider binaries show debris detection rates consisten with those for single stars. A sample of circumstellar discs around 29 young stellar systems with ages of 5-30 Myr were observed with the LABOCA sub-millimetre instrument on the APEX telescope at 870μm, to provide disc masses or mass upper limits in support of a large Hershel programme. These targets included the η Chamaeleontis cluster and four bright Herbig Ae/Be stars which have not previously been observed at this wavelength. All but the Herbig Ae/Be stars were not detected, and 3σ dust mass upper limits of ~ 0.1-3 M are determined, with corresponding total disc masses of ~0.03-1Mjup. These mass limits indicate that there is insufficient remaining material in these discs to form gas giant planets, and add to the prevailing view that protoplanetary discs typically disperse within 10 Myr and that gas giant planet formation must be completed before this time. A search for cold dust emimission from two of the Solar System's nearest neighbours - α Centauri AB and ε Indi - was also performed with LABOCA. In both cases no debris disc emission was detected. A bright resolved feature was detected near α Centauri AB, nowever, follow-up observations at a second epoch, two years after the initial observations, showed that the feature is not co-moving with the stars. It is argued that the feature is most likely a pre-stellar core. The stars α Centauri A and B are detected, which is one of only very few detections of main sequence stellar photospheres at sub-millimetre wavelengths.
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