Spitzer observations of NGC 2264: the nature of the disk population

P. S. Teixeira, C. J. Lada, M. Marengo, E. A. Lada

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31 Citations (Scopus)


Aims: NGC 2264 is a young cluster with a rich circumstellar disk population which makes it an ideal target for studying the evolution of stellar clusters. Our goal is to study the star formation history of NGC 2264 and to analyse the primordial disk evolution of its members. Methods: The study presented is based on data obtained with the Infrared Array Camera (IRAC) and the Multiband Imaging Photometer for Spitzer (MIPS) on board the Spitzer Space Telescope, combined with deep near-infrared (NIR) ground-based FLAMINGOS imaging and previously published optical data. Results: We build NIR dust extinction maps of the molecular cloud associated with the cluster, and determine it to have a mass of 2.1 × 103 M⊙ above an AV of 7 mag. Using a differential Ks-band luminosity function (KLF) of the cluster, we estimate the size of the population of NGC 2264, within the area observed by FLAMINGOS, to be 1436 ± 242 members. The star formation efficiency is ≥ ~25%. We identify the disk population and divide it into 3 groups based on their spectral energy distribution slopes from 3.6 μm to 8 μm and on the 24 μm excess emission: (i) optically thick inner disks, (ii) anaemic inner disks, and (iii) disks with inner holes, or transition disks. We analyse the spatial distribution of these sources and find that sources with thick disks segregate into sub-clusterings, whereas sources with anaemic disks do not. Furthermore, sources with anaemic disks are found to be unembedded (i.e., with AV <3 mag), whereas the clustered sources with thick disks are still embedded within the parental cloud. Conclusions: NGC 2264 has undergone more than one star-forming event, where the anaemic and extincted thick disk population appear to have formed in separate episodes: the sources with anaemic disks are more evolved and have had time to disperse and populate a halo of the cluster. We also find tentative evidence of triggered star-formation in the Fox Fur Nebula. In terms of disk evolution, our findings support the emerging disk evolution paradigm of two distinct evolutionary paths for primordial optically thick disks: a homologous one where the disk emission decreases uniformly at NIR and mid-infrared (MIR) wavelengths, and a radially differential one where the emission from the inner region of the disk decreases more rapidly than from the outer region (forming transition disks).
Original languageEnglish
JournalAstronomy & Astrophysics
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2012


  • circumstellar matter
  • stars: formation
  • ISM: clouds


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