The clearing of discs around late type T Tauri stars: constraints from the infrared two colour plane

Barbara Ercolano, Cathie J. Clarke, Alex C. Hall

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We have undertaken SED modeling of discs around low mass T Tauri stars in order to delineate regions of the infrared two colour plane (K - [8] versus K - [24]) that correspond to discs in different evolutionary stages. This provides a ready tool for classifying the nature of star-disc systems based on infrared photometry. In particular we demonstrate the distinct loci followed by discs that undergo `uniform draining' (reduction in surface density by a spatially uniform factor) from those that clear from the inside out. We draw attention to the absence of objects on this `draining locus' in those star forming regions where the 24um sensitivity would permit their detection, as compared with the ~20 objects in these regions with colours suggestive of inner holes. We thus conclude that discs predominantly clear from the inside out. We also apply our classification of the infrared two colour plane to stars of spectral type M3-M5 in the IC 348 cluster and show that some of its members (dubbed `weak excess' sources by Muzerolle et al 2010) that had previously been assumed to be in a state of clearing are instead likely to be optically thick discs in which the dust is well settled towards the mid-plane. Nevertheless, there are many discs in a state of partial clearing in IC 348, with their abundance (relative to the total population of disc bearing stars) being around four times higher than for comparable stars in Taurus. However, the number of partially cleared discs relative to the total number of late type stars is similarly low in both regions (10 and 20 % respectively). We therefore conclude that IC 348 represents a more evolved version of the Taurus population (with more of its discs being highly settled or partially cleared) but that the timescale for clearing is similarly short (a few times 10^5 years) in both cases.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)671-678
Number of pages8
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number1
Early online date14 Dec 2010
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2011


  • astro-ph.SR


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