PI: Kevin Flaherty, University of Arizona, email@example.com
Address: Astronomy Department, 933 N Cherry Ave, Tucson, AZ 85721, USA
CoI: James Muzerolle, STSCI
CoI: Catherine Espaillat, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
Title: Understanding the Influence of Variable Accretion on Protoplanetary Disk Structure
Abstract: Recent observations have found that the structure of disks around young stars fluctuates on timescales of days to weeks, but it is not clear if this is caused by, or even related to, changes in the flow of gas near the star. This has important implications for the early evolution of giant planets because their formation depends on the complex interplay between gas and dust in circumstellar disks. Previous studies, limited to a small handful of sources, have found conflicting results about a possible correlation between the accretion rate and dust emission in the infrared. We propose to greatly expand on these previous observations by monitoring accretion diagnostics, in this case H(alpha) and CaII emission, for ~150 members of the 3 Myr-old cluster IC 348 using GMOS spectroscopy on 8 separate epochs over the course of 5 weeks. Gemini provides the crucial ability to quickly survey many sources with the flexibility of queue scheduling that is required to make this type of study of accretion fluctuations feasible. This sampling matches our previous monitoring campaigns in the mid- infrared, far-infrared and the X-ray. Any correlation, or lack thereof, between the magnitude of the gas and dust fluctuations has important implications for the canonical assumption of well-mixed gas and dust in accretion disks, as well as the formation of giant planets in these young systems.
National Optical Astronomy Observatory, 950 North Cherry Avenue, P.O. Box 26732, Tucson, Arizona 85726, Phone: (520) 318-8000, Fax: (520) 318-8360