TOYS - time-domain observations of young stars
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Stars form inside clouds of molecular gas and dust. In the early stages of stellar evolution the remainders of the initial cloud form a circumstellar disk. For the next few million years the disk will slowly dissipate via accretion, outflows, photoevaporation and planet growth while the star makes its way onto the Main Sequence. This stage of a star’s life is referred to as the T Tauri phase and is characterised by high-level spectrophotometric variability. This thesis aims to study and map out the environments of T Tauri stars down to the very low mass regime by the means of time-domain monitoring. Different physical processes in the system manifest themselves as variability on different time- scales as well as produce characteristic spectroscopic and photometric features at various wave- lengths. In order to study young stellar objects in depth, the observing campaigns presented in this work were designed to cover a large range of time-scales - minutes, hours, days and months. Combining all the data, this thesis establishes a baseline of over a decade for some objects. The observations also cover a wide range of wavelengths from the optical to the mid-infrared part of the spectrum. The star RW Aur experienced two long-lasting dimming events in 2010 and 2014. This thesis presents a large collection of spectral and photometric measurements carried out just before and during the 2014 event. Spectral accretion signatures indicate no change in the accretion activity of the system. Photometry indicates that parallel to the dimming in the optical the star becomes brighter in the mid-infrared. The observations in this work combined with literature data suggest that the origin of the 2014 event is most likely obscuration of the star by hot dust from the disk being lifted into the disk wind. Very low mass stars (<0.4 M⊙) are the most common type of star in the Galaxy. In order to understand the early stages of stellar evolution we must study young very low mass stars. This work investigates the photometric and spectroscopic variability of seven brown dwarfs in star forming regions near σ Ori and ε Ori. All targets exhibit optical photometric variability between from 0.1 to over 1.0 magnitude that persists on a time-scale of at least one decade. Despite the photometric variability no change in the spectral type is measured. In the cases where the stars are accreting, modelling of the spectral changes suggest the accretion flow is more homogeneous and less funnelled compared to Sun-like T Tauri stars. The non-accreting variables are more plausibly explained by obscuration by circumstellar material, possibly a ring made out of multiple clouds of dust grains and pebbles with varying optical depths. The star-disk systems studied in this thesis have some broader implications for star and planet formation theory. The case-study of RW Aur has unambiguously demonstrated that the planet- forming environment is very dynamic and can change dramatically on short time-scales, which in turn would have implications for the diversity of planetary systems found in the Galaxy. The Orion stars have shown that the current theory for the T Tauri stage of stellar evolution is valid down to the very low mass regime. The seven dwarfs are a good example for the evolutionary path of circumstellar disks, showing the transition from gas-high, flared accretion disks (σ Ori) to dust-dominated, depleted, structured debris disks (ε Ori).
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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