The Lifetime of Protoplanetary Discs: Observations and Theory

Barbara Ercolano, Christine Koepferl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Citation (Scopus)


The time-scale over which and modality by which young stellar objects (YSOs) disperse their circumstellar discs dramatically influences the eventual formation and evolution of planetary systems. By means of extensive radiative transfer (RT) modelling, we have developed a new set of diagnostic diagrams in the infrared colour-colour plane (K - [24] vs. K - [8]), to aid with the classification of the evolutionary stage of YSOs from photometric observations. Our diagrams allow the differentiation of sources with un-evolved (primordial) discs from those evolving according to different clearing scenarios (e.g. homologous depletion vs. inside-out dispersal), as well as from sources that have already lost their disc. Classification of over 1,500 sources in 15 nearby star-forming regions reveals that approximately 39 % of the sources lie in the primordial disc region, whereas between 31 and 32 % disperse from the inside-out and up to 22 % of the sources have already lost their disc. Less than 2 % of the objects in our sample lie in the homogeneous draining regime. Time-scales for the transition phase are estimated to be typically a few 105 years independent of stellar mass. Therefore, regardless of spectral type, we conclude that currently available infrared photometric surveys point to fast (of order 10 % of the global disc lifetime) inside-out clearing as the preferred mode of disc dispersal.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)63
JournalThe Labyrinth of Star Formation, Astrophysics and Space Science Proceedings
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • Physics


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