Publication Date

April 2015

Advisor(s)

Meredith Hughes

Major

Astronomy

Language

English (United States)

Abstract

Circumstellar disks of gas and dust, left over from the processes of stellar formation, are cosmic nurseries for the growth of planets. In these young stellar systems, bodies ranging from small and rocky to massive and gaseous coalesce as gravitational, chemical, and viscous evolution transform gas-rich protoplanetary disks into tenuous, nearly gas-free debris disks over millions of years. While the direct detection of planets during this time is effectively impossible with our current technology, observations of rotational transitions of gas species, scattered light from micron-sized dust grains, and thermal emission from micron to millimeter-sized grains provide an indispensable tracer of the processes that shape these disks. Because the genesis of planets is directly tied to the morphology of the gas and dust, studying the anatomy of a variety of young disks is essential to understanding how worlds such as our own formed. 49 Ceti, at an estimated age of 40 million years, is just one puzzle piece of many, but its gas-rich debris disk provides important clues to deciphering the final stages of disk evolution.

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