Star formation across the galaxy : observations and modelling of the spectral energy distributions of young stars
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In the last few decades, the emergence of large-scale infrared surveys has led to a revolution in the study of star formation. In particular, NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope has recently carried out mid- and far-infrared observations of numerous star formation regions with unprecedented resolution and sensitivity, and has uncovered thousands of forming stars. In combination with present and future large-scale near-infrared and sub-mm surveys, spectral energy distributions from near-infrared to mm wavelengths will be available for these thousands of young stars. Never before has there been such a wealth of multi-wavelength data for so many young stars. Traditional techniques for studying the physical properties of young stars through their spectral energy distributions have usually focused either on the analysis of many sources using simple observational diagnostics such as colours or spectral indices, or on the analysis of a few sources through the detailed modelling of their full spectral energy distributions. The work presented in the first part of this thesis aims to bridge these two techniques through the efficient modelling of the spectral energy distributions of many young stars. In particular, the technique developed for this work makes it straightforward to find out how well different physical parameters are constrained, whether any parameters are degenerate, and whether additional data would resolve the degeneracies. In the second part of this thesis, a census of intrinsically red sources observed by Spitzer in the Galactic plane is presented, including a catalogue of over 11,000 likely young stellar objects. This sample of sources is the largest uniformly selected sample of young stars to date, and effectively provides a map of the sites of star formation in the mid-plane of the Milky-Way. In parallel, this census has uncovered over 7,000 candidate asymptotic giant branch stars, of which over 1,000 are variable at 4.5 or 8.0 microns.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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