Modelling and observations of molecules in discs around young stars

John David Ilee

Research output: Other contribution


This thesis contains a study of molecules within circumstellar discs around young stars. Firstly, the chemistry of a disc around a young, Class 0 protostar is modelled. Such discs are thought to be massive, and thus experience gravitational instabilities, which produce spiral density waves. These affect the chemistry in three ways; by desorbing molecules from dust grains, by providing extra energy for new reactions to take place, and by mixing the internal structure of the disc to provide a rich chemistry near the midplane. Secondly, high resolution near-infrared spectra of 20 massive young stellar objects are presented. The objects display CO first overtone bandhead emission, which is excited in the conditions expected within circumstellar discs. The emission is modelled using a simple analytic model of a Keplerian disc, and good fits are found to all spectra. On average, the discs correspond to being geometrically thin, spread across a wide range of inclinations. The discs are located within the dust sublimation radius, providing strong evidence that the CO emission originates in small gaseous discs, supporting the scenario in which massive stars form via disc accretion. Finally, medium resolution near-infrared spectra of 5 Herbig Ae/Be stars are presented. The spectra cover both CO bandhead and Br gamma emission. Accretion rates are derived from the measuring the Br gamma emission and through modelling the CO emission, however these accretion rates are found to be inconsistent. High resolution archival data of one of the targets is presented, and it is shown that this CO disc model is unable to fit the high resolution data. Therefore, it is concluded that to properly fit CO spectra, high resolution data are needed, and that previously published information determined from low resolution spectra should be treated with caution.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2013


  • astrochemistry
  • accretion discs
  • circumstellar matter
  • stars: early-type
  • stars: formation
  • stars: pre-main-sequence
  • protoplanetary discs


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